Reviving Water Transport

That will restore beauty to this place!

Ever since, state government contemplated revival of historical Jhelum water transport, a mixed atmosphere of curiosity and nostalgia is visible amongst the young and elderly. Kashmir valley with its impressive water bodies and active waterways has always been lively and full of energy. River Jhelum in particular has forever influenced the social, economic and cultural facets of this beautiful valley. For centuries the vivacity of Jhelum attracted most of the Kashmiris and they preferred to settle on its banks. River Jhelum along with several other water bodies and waterways since ages has served as an elaborate transport system for travel, trade and commerce within the valley. In earlier times water transport was the only efficient transport system as compared to sluggish horse carriages and uncomfortable bullock carts. With the passage of time and arrival of modern mechanized surface transport system, water transport in Kashmir lost its significance and departing from traditional styles and values this long cherished historic transport system faded away into the oblivious alleys of so-called modernity. Kashmir valley and Srinagar city in particular being strategically located in the proximity of energetic water structures cannot elude influence of water and its vast energy. Our ancestors had rightly visualized this relationship of coexistence and explored it to the most, in their own favor and interest. And this coexistent relation lasted for long, only to cease partly in recent past because of our ignorance about nature and environment. The gentle flow of river Jhelum from Khanabal to Khadinyaar in most of the seasons makes it ideal for smooth navigation along with a rich source of water for irrigation and human use. Earlier most of transportation activity and public distribution mechanism was confined to river Jhelum and its lively banks. Previously major part of tax proceeds within the valley was collected on the banks of Jhelum and the main tax collection centre was historic Abi Guzar in the heart of Srinagar city. Certainly, earlier water transport system was slow like any other transport system but its environment friendly character and aesthetic nature is acknowledged even in present contemporary era of modernization. Over the period of time like all other means of transportation, water transport has also evolved and improved both in efficiency and comforts. The only aspect of water transport that has remained constant for the best, is its medium of locomotion—water; a medium that requires no maintenance or expenditures as compared to roads, tracks and other means of transportation. A cursory look on the map of Kashmir valley with reference to its water ways will reveal a wealth of information regarding practicable, eco-friendly and cost effective water transport system. A trunk water highway from Khanabal to Baramulla connecting all major towns and many other rivulets provide a unique water transport scheme; if explored properly the arrangement can relieve our overburdened highways and other road networks. In present scenario of modernization and development new routes of water transport can be drawn for extended Srinagar city through Nigeen and Dal Lake. These corridors will provide fast and efficient transport service in minutes to many parts of the Srinagar city that can be otherwise covered in hours by mainland transport system. For example a journey from Hawal to Nishat by most efficient surface transport system, irrespective of regular traffic jams will take minimum one and half hour, either using foreshore road or via Boulevard, but the same distance can be covered in only thirty minutes by boarding a modern ferry somewhere in Pokharibal and de-boarding at Nishat. Exploration of many other routes within this circuit will not only save time, decongest roads but will also explore possibilities of tourist traffic in a big way within the two Lakes. In the first phase, revival of water transport from Pampore to Chattabal Weir; within designated corridors inside Nigeen and Dal Lake and leisure water excursions in Chunt kul will provide bedrock for future of water transport system in Kashmir. This experimentation will help in exploring vistas of heritage and cultural tourism to outside world in right perspective and will provide a unique tourism circuit to showcase.

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