Stone Extraction Turns Splendid Drangbal Into Barren Land

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Imtiyaz Wani

Pic by Faraaz Shah

Baramulla: Located on the banks of river Jhelum, Drangbal was one of the beautiful hamlets of Kashmir, with gushing river Jehlum passing on its front side and lofty forests on the backside with magnificent Kail and Deodar trees adding to its glory.

Villagers used to flock in the forests for hunting pheasants; however, the place has now completely changed after it got appended with the expanding Baramulla town and many inhabitants of the old city preferred to construct their homes at this place.

Now, Drangbal has changed into a ‘mini town’ with hundreds of beautiful houses dotting it.  This place is not only gateway to the Uri but it’s also passage to beautiful meadows of Hajibal and Boasian that overlooks this place.

However, five decades have changed this beautiful place completely and instead of a splendid place, it looks like a land of barren stone quarries.  The stone quarries have completely changed the landscape of this place, now it’s filled with dust, mud and stone and residents who constructed their homes at this place are ruing the decision.

And many of the residents are now planning to dispose off their houses as they term this place unlivable. ‘’Only five decades ago, this place was one of the serene places of the town. Apple, peach and grape orchards dotted this place.

Every spring people from the old town and other areas used to come this place to enjoy cool breeze and spring flavor,’’ says Abdul Rashid, who lives at neighboring Tawheed Ganj village. ‘’The forests on the backside of the village where full with Kail, Pine and Fir trees. Unfortunately, nothing has left at this place. It was ruined by the excessive stone queries.’’

As per the estimates of local people every day, 200 to 300 truck loads stones are extracted from the mountains of Drangbal and its adjoining areas. Even the excessive stone queries have left scars on the beauty of this magnificent place.

“This place had all the potential to become a beautiful tourism spot. Neither government, nor its inhabitants took any interest in its development,’’ says Ghulam Mohammad Khan, a government teacher who preferred to make this place his native place.

He says that a decade ago when he decided to construct house at this place, he had lot of dreams about this place. ‘With the passage of town everything has changed. If we will not take steps, this place will become a cesspool. For, this not only people but government will also be held responsible.’’

Before partition or in the olden days, Drangbal was a gateway or the entrance of the town. Now, it is part of the town. Initially, some villagers started extracting stones from the nearby forests and with the passage of time almost half of the people living here are engaged in stone extraction.

With every passing year, more and more forest land is being converted into stone quarries as the officials are hand in glove with the owners of stone queries. From four to five stone quarries, now this place has more than two to three dozen quarries and nobody from the government is bothered to keep check on this.

“Initially only few people were engaged in stone extraction, with the expansion of town and construction boom more and more villagers took the job, that ruined this peaceful village,’’ says Mohammad Saleem who lives in the midst of the village. ‘’Our fathers and grand father use to tell us about beauty of this place, now we only see dust and pollution here.’’

Unfortunately, the roads are filled with ditches and mounds as the tippers and trucks loaded with stones and crushed stones are running from morning till evening. And irony, whatever the greenery this place had is fast depleting and people have converted their beautiful orchards into residential colonies.

Pic by Faraaz Shah

Though after campaign from the people of Baramulla town and nature lovers though government imposed ban on the stone quarries, however, it didn’t last for long and extraction is still going at full swung. “We are illiterate people, these quarries give us employment, what will we do if quarries will be closed,’’ explains Mohammad Jamal who works at a stone quarry.

What is another tragedy is that even government is extracting silt and mud from the Jhelum is also planning to setup a stone crusher in the village close to river. Locals say the crushing of boulders will further add pollution in this village with more than six thousand inhabitants.

Barely, three kilometers away from the Valley’s only Eco park; the people of the town had urged government to include the village into the tourism circuit. ‘This place could become a marvelous place, only government has to initiate some mega tourism related projects here,’’ says Athar Ahmad a postgraduate student who lives in the locality.

Baramulla legislator, Javeed Hassain Baig said that government is seriously thinking to develop this place. “I have some good proposals about this place in mind and hopefully in coming days government will take up the issues people are facing in the locality.’’

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