Lost course

The rivulet with gushing milky white clean waters has given way to a stinking seawage drain and some government offices, malls, and residential colonies depriving the city of a clean water source and an important waterway, Abdul Mohamin reports

Obscured behind the towering malls at Batamalloo, is a stinky drain that is choked with tons of garbage generated in the surroundings. The drain negotiates a narrow course downwards towards Chattabal to end up at river Jehlum.

Before turning into a filthy sewage drain, it was a perennial stream, Chachae-Kul, with clean waters in it gushing towards Jehlum. The tributary of river Jehlum from southern part of the valley apparently lost its course in the city. The locals said that this rivulet  made its entry in the  city near Rambagh and passed though the erstwhile marshy area of Batamaloo before merging with river Jhelum at Chattabal in old city.

The stream originates from Pirpanchal mountain ranges in south Kashmir from a place place called Sange-safed (white rocks) or chache-kane in Kashmiri giving it the name Chachae-Kul for its milky white water.

The official name however was changed to Doodhganga, however, locals called it as Chachae-Kul, with an existing bifurcated course of the river running sideways to Flood Spill channel via Bemina, which also merges with river Jhelum a few kilometers downstream at Mirgund.

This tributary was not the only one to vanish in the Srinagar city. Another famous waterway in the city called the Nallahmar that traversed most part of the old city was filled up to make way for a motorable road.

ChachaeKul was to meet an uglier fate. Local residents say that the area around the stream was given to Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), which developed several government buildings, malls, colonies, graveyards, parks on it. Besides the illegal encroachments devoured what had remained of this once gushing river.

Abdul Gafar Naikoo, a resident of Zampakadal – once a bridge on ChachaeKul – said that the water in the stream was so clean and sweet that local residents used it for drinking purposes.

“The decline started some 35 years ago and, slowly, once gushing river dried-up with only a stinky drain now remaining at its place,” said Naikoo adding the land that fell under its course in city was handed over to SDA and they began utilizing it for commercial purposes.

Wali Mohammad Shah a resident of Baghi Nand Singh said that, ChachaeKul was not as fortunate as Nallahmar which later became a road, all the land under this erstwhile rivulet is now under private possession with SDA owning few malls and offices and encroachments too have taken place.

Shah recalls some of the features of this river were unique, as it had a grinding mill that ran on its gushing waters and people used to grind corn, rice or wheat at there. A cremation ground too was setup that still exists, and was connected with the river with a ghat set on its banks.

“The Pandit community would also consider a mandir called Barov Mandir at the culmination of two rivers at Chattabal as sacred and many would immerse the ashes of their dead at this place,” said Shah.

The local Muslim population said that this Mandir came up later and the area had a mosque and a government office at place called Aailmardan’s Mosque, a mosque developed by Mughal Governor Ali Mardan Khan and the two communities laid their claim on the area with the matter still pending in courts.

With four bridges laid over the rivulet, Naikoo says it had fish in abundance.

“The busiest of all was the Chattabal Bridge, with a bridge at Batamaloo and Rambagh called the Militia Bridge being prominent ones. Zampakadal too was important that had a well arranged gate to control the flow of Chachae-Kul towards river Jhelum,” said Naikoo.

The main areas that fell on its path included Aloochibagh, Batamaloo, Balgarden, Dewanbagh (Karan nagar), Baghiyas and Chattabal. Vegetables were cultivated in the many vegetable gardens near the rivulet particularly downstream towards the city.

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