Introduction to KashmirForum.org Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.
www.kashmirforum.org

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Finally an Awakening in Srinagar: Dal Lake is Dying

The possibility of Dal Lake's imminent demise brings together a coalition of environmentalists, politicians, beneficiaries, and exploiters ......



Protests in Srinagar Against Govt Apathy Towards Dal Lake

Srinagar, Mar 04, KONS: Alarmed at the deteriorating condition of world famous Dal and Nigeen lakes of Srinagar, hundreds of people, including social activists and environmentalists besides displaced residents, on Tuesday staged a march protesting against apathy of the authorities. The lake's size has been halved in a few decades, to some 13 square km due to encroachments, they allege.

A large number of people, including shikara owners, Dal dwellers and farmers, affected by the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority’s (LAWDA’s) demolition drive in and around the Dal Lake joined by environmentalists and common people, took out a march from the Boulevard and converged on the Partap Park.

The protestors were shouting slogans for saving the endangered lake, and denouncing the LAWDA for its demolition drive.
They carried placards demanding protection to the lake and immediate rehabilitation of those displaced by the LAWDA campaign.

They alleged that LAWDA authorities were flouting High Court orders in the demolition operations.

“Violating court orders, LAWDA teams demolish only specific houses and don’t touch constructions and encroachments by influential people,” they said.
"We can still create a Taj Mahal, but we cannot produce a Dal Lake with its unique ecology set in the midst of verdant mountains. Even if we spent billions of dollars, we cannot have another Dal Lake, "said Chairman of the House Boat Owners' Association, Mohammad Azim.
Authorities and environmentalists blame the families living around the lake for dumping rubbish, sewage and other wastes, which create landfills of mud and weeds in the waters for farming land and floating gardens.

“They should provide us with alternative accommodation first if they have to pull down our houses,” said a displaced resident.

A study conducted last year by the State's Comptroller and Auditor General reported that the lake has excessively high levels of toxic metals due to sewage.

Tests of water samples showed arsenic levels were almost 1,000 times above permissible levels
Functionaries of the Zameendar Union, the Shikara Association and the House Boat Association said that Dal dwellers had played an important role in promoting tourism in the valley but had been badly hit during the turmoil, and now the government could not make them homeless in the name of promoting tourism.

The protestors demanded that to save the Dal Lake, the famed water body should be handed over to some foreign company, because LAWDA had no account of the crores of rupees spent on the lake’s conservation.

The protestors staged prolonged demonstrations in the press enclave, chanting “save water reserves, sack LAWDA and give us justice.”

An activist Habib Khanqashi, said that the steps taken by the government to save water reservoirs and the plans made to restore them to their past glory were insufficient as only people had been affected by the measures.

“I have been living in Britain for the past 25 years and am in touch with experts in ecology and environmental sciences for conserving water bodies and maintaining ecological balance. Soon I will exchange views with experts in the Kashmir University,” he said.
House Committee Visits Dal, Nageen Areas

The House Committee headed by MLAs Ali Mohammad Sagar, Shaoib Lone and Nazir Ahmad Gurezi today visited various areas of Dal and Nageen lakes to assess the work done by LAWDA for restoring the pristine glory of these lakes. The committee was accompanied by Secretary Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Naseem Lanker and Vice Chairman LAWDA, M.Y. Naseem besides other officers.

The authorities informed the House Committee about the measures taken up for demolishing and removing the encroachments in and around Dal and Nageen Lakes.
The House Committee asked the authorities to accelerate the pace of work keeping in view the ensuing tourist season.



____________________________________________________



ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE HOUSEBOAT OWNERS ASSOCIATION



Are you serious about the conservation of our vanishing lakes and other water bodies?
If you are, then come, and join us for:

Creating awareness &
mobilize public support for the
Preservation of our precious lakes and other water bodies.

All men and women of conscience, including students, are invited to participate
in a peaceful rally organized by the Houseboat owners association
to endorse support to this noble cause.

The rally will start from Nehru Park and will end at Press colony,
Partap Park, Regal Chowk Srinagar on 4th March, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Similar rallies will be organized same day in national capital Delhi and other Western cities to highlight the importance of preserving our endangered water bodies.

All participants to bring along with them banners or placards, if any, in the proposed rally.

Some of the salient features of this rally are:

1. Demand identification and demarcation of territorial limits of Dal and Nigeen Lake as the same is in consonance with the directions issued by the Hon’ble High Court of Jammu and Kashmir.
2. LAWDA should come up with a model of the Dal Lake as it should look after its restoration which should be made public in print and electronic media. The much hyped master plan of which the conservation of Dal, Nigeen, River Jehlum and
3. Chunti Koul is a part has become redundant since these were designated as protected water bodies by law.
4. Immediate rehabilitation of all such families who are willing to shift from Dal, Nigeen, River Jehlum and Chinar Bagh voluntarily.
5. Immediate ban on use of all polythene and plastic material in an around the water bodies. The orders of the Hon’ble High Court against the import of this hazardous and harmful material to the valley though in place or not being implemented in letter and spirit. We suggest that a mobile judge be deputed who will monitor the complaints of these orders by law enforcing agencies of the state.
6. Immediate cessation of dredging along the western foreshore road of Dal Lake by LAWDA as this has plugged many natural springs found on the lake bed. Similarly, filling of land with so excavated mud and slush in the area under dredging by the authority be stopped forthwith.
7. Install drainage systems with septic tanks which will cater to all the houseboats.
8. Plug all live drainage pipes around the peripheries of our water bodies which are dumping harmful effluents round the clock.
9. Immediate widening of backwater channels of Dal Lake, leading to Rainawari and Naidyar to make these functional again for a smooth movement of boat traffic.
10. Restore the former needle type system of water gates at Dalgate, Nallah Amir-Khan and at Brari Nambal immediately as the iron shatters/gates have adversely affected and impeded the normal outflow of these water reservoirs.
11. Restore traditional de-weeding of Dal and Nigeen Lakes as the mechanized de-weeding by weed harvesters have not only added to more growth of useless weeds and other bio-mass but these have seriously endangered fragile marine life of these twin lakes.
12. All four water treatment plants, now in operation at Kral Sangri, Habak, Hazratbal and Brari Nambal, be put to test and verification by foreign experts to assess the purification level of the so treated water.
13. If all else fails and options run out to preserve our water bodies, we demand that their conservation be handed over to some private firm or to a foreign agency or agencies who have the requisite expertise and technology for accomplishing the job rather than allow it lingering before it is too late.

It is a historical fact that Houseboats and the conservation of Dal, Nigeen, Chunti Kul and River Jehlum have a strong correlation and same is, therefore, indispensable. As such, all houseboat owners are prepared to fully cooperate with conservation plan. For that, the Houseboat Owners Association has more suggestions which shall be made public in due course of time.

So, with an unfailing commitment and sincerity in purpose we appeal to you to join your hands with us and show your resolve for the preservation and conservation of our heritage for our future generations.


Houseboat Owners Association.
Contact Numbers are: +91-0194-2450326 Mobile: 09906735715
E-Mail: hboassociation@locatorbiz.com

1 comment:

Afzal said...

Hi Everybody.

Hat of to all of you for standing tall against balant violation by various section of the Govt Department say the SMC.

I my self is an activist from Mumbai and you will find my various activisties if you google search by name MOHAMMED AFZAL. I represent various NGO Organizations in Mumbai. I will be coming to Srinagar on 5th May 2009, want to meet some of you.

D revert abck and tell me of any development about HC order implementation on houseboats.

My email id is go4_afzal@rediffmail.com

Wish you activist all the best. You have made us proud.

Best Regards - Mohammed Afzal