After revitalizing a prime lake in the heart of Srinagar, a Kashmiri man’s resolve to restore lost springs is now creating a collective eco-campaign in the valley.
A bearded man is calmly inspecting the ongoing cleanliness drive in Khushalsar lake despite boatman’s pedal breaking the meditative silence around. The sun over his head is turning hot and humid, but the man sporting skullcap and khan dress is unmoved. This gritty resolve is today infusing a new life in the dead waters of Kashmir.
But Manzoor Wangnoo is far from satisfied, despite his celebrated eco-campaign involving who’s who in town today.
With men and machines removing filth from the lake’s Zadibal side, Manzoor takes a hiatus and turns talkative about his Mission Ehsaas.
The environmental campaign has already become the talk of the town for its fluid transformation.
“We’ve to be very responsible towards our natural assets especially water bodies,” Manzoor says with a brooding gaze.
“Few days of rain and we were bracing for another floods lately. And the threat is always looming. Nature is warning us to wake up from the deep slumber and rise to the occasion by contributing our bit towards the conservation of our water bodies.”
Manzoor often broadcasts these views on social media — where his eco-campaign is getting traction for the spring cause these days.
Springs were important for Kashmir, Manzoor says, as they used to provide pure and refreshing water. “I want to bring that old legacy back by locating those buried water sources.”
From the Ganderbal’s Waliwar Lar on June 23 last month, he led his first restoration campaign for four lost springs. “The aim was to set an example for people and administration by rejuvenating some limited springs of Kashmir. Our one step can inspire many others.”
In a recent TV broadcast, Manzoor was asked to give 20-second-long message to people. He talked on the expected line: “There should be Ehsaas in people, administration and in all of us to protect our environment.”
On the heels of that telecast, Manzoor started Mission Ehsaas for bringing springs back to life in Kashmir.
But before springs, the man had dedicatedly worked for the restoration of Khushaalsar lake of Srinagar. It was after 30 years that this dead wetland was brought to life by Manzoor’s efforts.
And today, the water body looks fresh and breathable as it was decades ago.
“People and animals used to walk on this wetland till last year,” Manzoor says. “It was full of plastic products. Now it is free of it.”
For his eco-campaign, the quintessential Kashmiri man also received official support. “It takes two to tango,” he says. “The real and lasting change is sustained by the admin-public partnership.”
But despite upbeat about his eco-campaign, Manzoor is facing the searing global challenge in the local ecosystem today.
Climate change, he says, has brought drastic change in Kashmir. The unpattern weather conditions have made situation tough for people, he argues. “From wetlands to forests, everything is in danger. I’ve witnessed how people have become careless towards their duties to environment.”
Pollution, he reckons, is one of the biggest reasons for the climate change in Kashmir.
“Water bodies have been wildly polluted, making them unfit for drinking. Recent rains created flood alarm and panicked all of us. All these changes are linked with our daily treatment towards environment.”
But amid the uninterrupted littering and garbage-dumping in water bodies, Manzoor rues that people don’t understand the gravity of the issues that are concerning the environment today.
“Our water bodies are ending, springs are choked. The water for agriculture is decreasing, creating hardships in farming.”
The eco-campaigner is equally worried about the fast melting of glaciers which are the major source of fresh water in Kashmir.
“Global warming has impacted Kashmir badly,” he says. “We’re witnessing it all now and are greatly responsible for feeling this heat in our backyards today.”
With spring mission in his mind these days, Manzoor is counting on the local support for unearthing the buried fountainheads of the valley.
He wants people to identify lost springs around their areas and make his mission effective.
“At the end of the day, I can’t single-handedly bring change,” he says.
“My resources are limited. Administration, stakeholders, locals, schools, colleges, mohalla committees and individuals need to come forward collectively for the just cause especially to work for restore and revive the traditional navigation routes. If we don’t indulge ourselves in cleaning of environment, what answer we will give to God tomorrow?”