Introduction to 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.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Srinagar or Jammu: It is clear that no lessons were learnt after deadly earthquake in 2005

How many disasters will it take to end haphazard construction in our two main cities?

No lessons learnt after deadly ’05 quake

Jammu, March 16The state government apparently has not learnt any lessons from October 2005 earthquake, which wreaked havoc in Jammu and Kashmir. Unplanned constructions without any quake resistant technology continue to mushroom in twin capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar.

Ever since killer quake flattened structures in 2005, the state government framed a disaster management committee and a senior official measures the state’s progress at 8 on 10 level to meet any contingency. But despite all these preventive steps, high rise buildings minus requisite technology continue to come up.

“The state falls under seismic zone categories 4 and 5 where seismic activity happens every five days and even this morning a temblor measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale struck south Kashmir,” said Project Coordinator Disaster Management, Amir Ali.

He, however, claimed that state government has made big strides forward ever since October 8, 2005 saying, “The state as of today has sufficient seismographs with V-satellite connection and two to three Global Positioning Systems (GPS) so as to help geologists and experts in their research.”

Official sources said, “Situated on the faulty lines, the state today needs micro-zonation study and space-based remote sensing research so as to predict major tremblers in future.”
It may be recalled here that 1,400 people in Jammu and Kashmir and over 70,000 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were killed on the fateful morning of October 8, 2005.

The state government in collaboration with the Unesco recently conducted a workshop in Srinagar forwarding its recommendations to the housing and urban development department.

“However, we cannot implement the recommendations unless and until a techno-legal regime including by-laws are put in place,” said an official of the Housing and Urban Department.

“Leave aside financial implications, a legal framework is required to ensure every new structure is constructed with quake resistant technology,” he said, adding, “It is possible only after state legislature makes necessary amendments in Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act.”

He said that ‘lifeline’ buildings like hospitals, civil secretariat, schools, colleges and other multi-storied structures in the state shouldn’t crumble during quakes. “The matter has been taken up with the government,” he said.

Responding to a query, he expressed apprehensions that high-rise buildings in Jammu and Srinagar may not endure another seven plus temblor. The 2005 quake had a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale.

When contacted, an official of the Jammu Municipal Corporation said, “Undoubtedly unplanned constructions have been going on in the winter capital and the old city faces a major threat because fault lines are passing beneath Gujjar Nagar and Tawi River.”

“Leave aside unplanned and illegal constructions in the city, a danger constantly lurks over old and ageing Town Hall housing JMC office,” he said.

The unplanned Jammu city, particularly western part, has several localities where not even an ambulance can enter in the wake of any unforeseen event and to aggravate the problem people after hobnobbing with the JMC officials have been managing illegal constructions.

(Tribune News Service, Chandigarh.)

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