Climate Change

After shock, Kokernag sinkhole likely to unearth buried secrets

FPK Photo/Zainab.

Interesting findings like source of springs may soon surface as Kokernag sinkhole has become a tracer-driven advanced study. This may throw light on the epochal underground topography.

It felt so loud that Shahzada had to suspend her daily chores in shock.

Thundering sounds were already rattling the stillness of her village Wandevalgam in Kokernag village of Anantnag district on February 10.

But when the shaking sound was followed by stir, Shahzada peeped from the window and saw people rushing towards the Bringi river stream flowing in the backyard of her house.

“I told my mother something is not well at the river,” she recalls the event now engaging multiple expert studies. “We too came out to assess the situation.”

When the mother-daughter duo reached near the banks, they were shocked to see a sinkhole draining Bringi’s ebb and flow.

“A huge concavity had formed on the riverbed following that thundering sound,” recalls Shahzada.

The Bringi river is one of the major tributaries of Jhelum formed by the confluence of three streams—Nowbugh stream, Ahlan Gadol stream and Daksum stream.

Nowbugh stream originates from the glaciers of Margan Top- Kishtwar side and Daksum stream from the glaciers of Sinthan in Anantnag district. Kokernag area is also popularly known as Bringi river valley.

[FPK Photo/Zainab]

As soon as the event was recorded and shared on social media, the rank and file of the administration arrived in droves. The officials ordered to divert the major proportion of water to save fish and flow.

The sinkhole of around 12 feet in length and breadth was consuming around 50 cusec of water. It was huge discharge—prompting government to issue a stern warning to people: “Stay away from the sinkhole”.

Since then the sinkhole has become a new expert odyssey in Kashmir with researchers making rounds to unearth something “unusual”.

“The occurrence of sinkhole is not harmful until it does not occur in residential or commercial places,” asserts Dr Riyaz Ahmad Mir, noted geologist at Geological Survey of India.

“It’s like a tooth decay occurring in regions composed of carbonate rich rock including limestone, gypsum, or dolomite which are easily dissolved when reacted with water.”

Geologists term this process as Karst topography in which underground cavities, tunnels, caves, streams, springs, ponds are formed.

The regions where the occurrence of karst topography is more are rich source of fresh water springs.

No wonder, the geologists argue, Anantnag houses famous fresh water springs including Achabal, Sheerbag, Kokernag, Verinag, Panzathnag, Malaknag.

“The availability of water and presence of limestone in the bedrock favours Karst topography and this is why Anantnag district is prone to sinkholes and formation of springs,” Dr. Mir continues.

[FPK Photo/Zainab]

Earth science experts even argue that ample springs in Anantnag indicates that there is karst topography going on underground from millions of years because water is coming out in the form of springs which suggests that there are caves or channels where water is recharging.

“It’s also evident that many sinkholes must have already formed with the course of time but are unreported,” Dr. Mir says. “Maybe because they’re away from civilization in the mountainous region and go unnoticed.”

Interestingly, a similar type of sinkhole was formed in the same belt, just 50 meters away from the current sinkhole location, in 1995.

“At that time geologists found that the water from the sinkhole opened up at a famous spring at Achabal,” Mir said. “However, we’re yet to find out the outlet of the recent sinkhole.”

The outlet of the sinkhole, experts say, will ascertain if water is flowing into the already existing underground channel and joining the underground water directly.

“Another probability is that,” Dr. Mir says, “maybe there’s some kind of underground reservoir in which water is getting stored or water is blocked somewhere underground.”

But while a troupe of fact-finders are already making the sinkhole site their new research region, a common person of the community like Shahzada is still wondering about the event.

“It was strange to see all the water draining and disappearing into the sinkhole and amusing to watch people collecting the fish in the polythene bags and taking them home for dinner,” Shahzada laughs at the sinking irony.

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