Unplumbed Treasure

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Having studied springs in Kashmir for over a decade, a researcher at University of Kashmir has found that not only are all the trace elements essential for human body present in their waters but they could also meet the water requirement of the entire Kashmir valley, Syed Asma reports.

Veerinag in Anantnag.Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Veerinag in Anantnag.Pic: Bilal Bahadur

A medium-built man in his forties donning a blue striped shirt, Dr Ghulam Jeelani looks engrossed in reading a paper at his University of Kashmir office where he works as an Assistant Professor of Department of Geology and Geophysics. Jeelani has spent twelve years researching the springs in Kashmir to understand them as a system.

A soft spoken man, Jeelani barely gets charged up. But when he talks about springs in Kashmir and their potential, a spark appears on his face. In his recently published paper, ‘Essential and Toxic Elements in Karst Springs of Kashmir’, Dr Jeelani has found that all the fourteen trace elements essential for human body were present in the spring water of Kashmir and that too within limits and in appreciable quantity, which was unique.

A resident of Tral in south Kashmir, Dr Jeelani has done his Masters and PhD from Aligarh Muslim University. Besides, he has also done his post-doctoral degree from United States. Since 2001, he has been working in Kashmir.

“It naturally meets the standards that are established by World Health Organisation (WHO). Bottled water contains only the major ions and the trace elements are generally below detection limit,” Dr Jeelani says.

“In comparison, water from Karst springs is characterized by relatively moderate TDS, appreciably high and appropriate concentrations of minor elements and presence of necessary and vital trace elements. Therefore, they are not only good for drinking purposes but are also more nutritious and conducive for human metabolism,” his research paper which was published in Current Science, states.

Ecology-Dr-Jeelani

Dr Ghulam Jeelani

Dr Jeelani and his team analysed eighteen water samples from nine Karst springs in south east Kashmir in May 2008 and November 2008 in which they discovered all fourteen trace elements and four minor elements essential for human body.

Apart from a nutritious diet, drinking water has to have these essential trace elements for effective bone and membrane structure, water-electrolyte balance, metabolic catalysis, oxygen binding and hormone function. Though these elements are required in small quantities but they play a vital role in the normal functioning of human body. Their inadequacy may lead to impairment of relevant physiological functions.

Dr Jeelani’s research suggests that Karst spring water, a precious source of drinking water which is the lifeline of the populace in south east Kashmir, needs to be conserved by judiciously restricting and monitoring anthropogenic activities, including limestone quarrying and spread of human settlements. This is particularly important for the survival of springs as Karst spring areas are more vulnerable to pollution.

Kashmir is known for its water bodies including rivers, lakes, streams and springs; the latter is considered as the purest source of water. In Kashmir, springs are not only considered the purest but the quality of water has a high standard as well. Spring water available in Kashmir is a better choice for drinking purpose than the one presently consumed by the people which is mostly the surface water, says Dr Jeelani,

Springs are formed where water table touches the ground surface and water flows out through different openings like a network of cracks, inter-granular spaces or large caves in the earth. The water passes through infinite pores beneath the ground surface and is considered as pristine, clean and naturally filtered. Spring water is also free of microbes as their life span is too short and they can’t coup up with long distances that the water covers to come out of the surface. The recharging sources of springs are either snowmelt or glacier and both are present on higher altitudes, so the water has to travel long distance.

The team of researchers led by Dr Jeelani were impressed with the quality of water and the potential of springs in south east Kashmir. He suggests that if these water sources are channelized properly, they can meet the drinking water requirement of the entire Kashmir valley.

“The Karst springs of south east Kashmir have a discharge capacity of 2000 litres per second and it can be easily used to benefit whole Kashmir. Besides, what will make our job easier is the topography of Kashmir which slopes from south towards north. The slope will help in effective water supply without any mechanical intervention,” Dr Jeelani says.

Map of SE Kashmir showing the location of the springs

Map of SE Kashmir showing the location of the springs

South Kashmir is considered as the richest source of spring water with a number of the major perennial springs spread across various towns and villages. Achalbalnag, Maratndnag, Andernag, Shakernag, Bhawan, Kulamchinarnag, Kokernag, Vetasanag and Verinag are a few of them. These are all Karst springs and their heavy presence is attributed to the existence of the glaciers in these areas.

The researchers working on the springs of Kashmir are of the opinion that Kashmir should follow the model set by Vienna, Austria which has the similar natural water system model. In Vienna, the recharging basis of the spring is preserved, human intervention of all kinds is restricted and thus filtration of water supplied to the population is not required at all.

Jeelani says that a similar plan should be adopted by the government in Kashmir. He suggests that human intervention in water bodies should be restricted, especially around the recharging sites of springs. “More check dams should be created to increase the contact time between water and the pores so that the water is purified properly and effectively,” he says.

Presently, the springs which have the potential to supply drinking water to Kashmir Valley are used by the locals for their own convenience like washing clothes, utensils, etc. It has significantly deteriorated the water quality of these springs. Achabal is presently considered to be the most polluted spring in Kashmir with highest microbial presence.

The researchers claim that human intervention has proved to be a disaster for natural springs across the globe. It is the reason why many seasonal springs in Kashmir have vanished with time. Alluvial springs which exist in the main basin in and around Srinagar have been the victim of human intervention, Dr Jeelani’s research says.

“It is humans who veraciously constructed buildings and roads over the sites which years ago used to be the seasonal springs. So, it can be said that springs are not completely dried up but the openings on the ground have been encroached and the flow of water is restricted,” Dr Jeelani says.

The main source for these seasonal springs was the snowmelt which, with global warming, got disturbed. Dr Jeelani says the state government should take some pains and save the natural water treasure that Kashmir possesses, “But they do not seem interested. Unless they do not merge their schemes and plans with academics, their plans will never be complete success. They have to look for the missing link,” Jeelani says.

1 Comment

  1. DR T.K.Moza on

    We are becoming wise after the event. For Pandits these were places of worship and reverence . But in order to score points the springs were defiled deliberately. Now we will spend fortune to restore them

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