Historic Padam Pukhuri’s water level dangerously low

The historic Padam Pukhuri (pond) located today at Naharbari, Dimapur opposite to the NH-29 Dimapur-Chümoukedima four lane road. (Morung Photo)

The historic Padam Pukhuri (pond) located today at Naharbari, Dimapur opposite to the NH-29 Dimapur-Chümoukedima four lane road. (Morung Photo)

Morung Express News 
Dimapur | July 14

Situated opposite to the Padum Pukhuri village gate lies the historical water-tank, built during the times of the Kachari/Dimasa Kingdom that ruled over Dimapur. The water tank whose name the colony received its name from, built likely around the medieval period according to historical sources has managed to remain in its intact form up to the present age. However, with the passage of time and owing to climate change fuelled by human activities, water levels within the structure have receded significantly, and is now on the verge of drying up completely if left unattended.

In the past, the site had been a local tourist spot where people often strolled along its edges while others came for fishing.  Residents claimed that the water levels had depreciated to a negligible level about 2-3 years ago yet they did not know what had caused it. One individual stated that the water level would dry up completely in the next few years if nothing was done by the authorities.  

A close inspection of the site indicated that a large portion of the water has depreciated with the remaining being covered by tall grass and plants giving it a swamp like appearance in some areas. 

A historic monument lost in time
In the past, there existed about 15 or more ‘pukhuris’ (ponds) scattered across Dimapur as stated by Babunath Thausen, President of Kachari Rajbari Preservation Committee. But with the spread of urbanisation these have been slowly filled up by land to make way for construction of new buildings. 

Thausen further revealed that the two ponds at Purana Bazaar called the Raj Pukhuri and at Naharbari known as Padam Pukhuri were handed over to the PHED Department by former MLA of Dimapur, Debala Mech during the 1970s.  Another one was currently maintained by the Department of Fisheries.

Given its large water holding capacity, the pukhuris (ponds) had been utilised as a water reservoir for the people in the olden days. 

Even though these historic monuments were under government hands, there has been no visible maintenance on the ground apart from the Kachari Rajbari ruins located at Circuit House colony, Dimapur. Apart from its utilitarian purpose, the historic ponds also held a religious significance for the once thriving Kachari kingdom, he stated.

Climate change and human action
Limasunep, Joint Director, Directorate of Soil & Water Conservation points to the fact that unrestrained extraction of ground water could not be ruled out as a major contributing factor. A majority of residents in Dimapur rely primarily on ground water for their daily use as pipe connection is almost non-existent. 

According to the Northeast region ground water report, the availability of ground water in Dimapur was 15,320 hectare meter. “Since 2013, the withdrawal of the water amounted to 286.6 hectare meters and if we continue in this trajectory, water shortage will definitely be a reality,” the official claimed. 

Similar to a bank where deposit and withdrawal of money takes place, he explained that, “If we only keep withdrawing all the water without depositing back, it will one day dry up.” As currently there is no concern for replenishment, this is creating further complications for future generations who will suffer the consequences. 

Moreover, he states that a loss of vegetation and forest cover around the surrounding areas, owing to construction of concrete buildings and other infrastructure might have indirectly hampered the percolation of water into the ground. 

The official suggests that one option of reviving the water levels inside the pond could be through ‘Desiltation,’ the process for removal of fine silt and sediment that has collected in a water body in order to restore its natural capacity. 

Lack of maintenance and upkeep 
According to former Naharbari Chairperson, Tokheli Kikon, lack of maintenance was the main cause for the current state of the pond. Over the past few years, the surrounding vicinity which was once government land has now been occupied by private residential buildings, she informed. 

Kikon, who stepped down from the post of Chairperson in 2021 revealed that a plan had been proposed once to turn the site into a tourist destination but due to opposition from certain quarters the plan was eventually scrapped.