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.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Not Just an Unplanned City but a Concrete Jungle

Two stories that highlight receeding beauty of Srinagar and Pahalgam

Citizens of Srinagar have never been serious about the development of their city.

With a slight shower, lanes and by lanes of the city are filled with rain water. As the drainage system in not properly in place this rainwater finds no outlet. Photographs of city markets, dwellings and roads filled with rainwater, keep appearing in the local newspapers but no one seems to get disturbed this otherwise grave problem that the entire population of this city is facing.

Although the landscape of this city is such that it needs a very efficient system of draining out the rainwater but contrary to this the planners never pay a heed to it.

The tragedy with this city is that its natural system of drainage has been choked by constructing a road that runs through the entire city. Nalamar that used to serve as the main duct for the passage of water in now history. Other such passages in the length and breadth of this city have also vanished.

They first dried up and then the loads of garbage found its way into the channels. And then the encroachments on the banks of these water bodies did the final damage. Now if water gets blocked and people have to wade knee deep through it, we are only to blame ourselves.

No denying the fact that successive governments in this state have never bothered to follow a method to develop this city, the people of this city too have not exhibited sense in this regard. They are as responsible as the governments are, if not more. Further we never bother to know about how the people in power are planning to expand this city. Town planning in not an issue that interests us as people.

The new Master Plan that we have been hearing of is a completely alien document for us. We are least interested in asking those who draw plans for our city what they are going to make of our city? If areas like Mehjoor Nagar are flooded just after having a little rainfall it is our own fault. Before building a mansion we should at least take some trouble to know the basics of a decent living.

The haphazard way in which we allow our dwellings to shape up land us into permanent troubles. We may protest against the authorities when water rushes into our room but we can not answer the simple question that why construct a house in an area which is flood prone and government has already declared it so.

Pahalgam turning into a concrete jungle as encroachers are on prowl and authorities play blind

Abdul Rashid Raina (Kashmir Images)

Pahalgam: The lush green meadows of Pahalgam will cease to attract lovers and admirers of nature if indiscriminate concretization going on here in the name of building tourism infrastructure continues without any checks.Pahalgam is under tremendous pressure these days owing to the random construction of hotels and guest-houses, both by locals and the people from other parts of the Valley.

Such is the random pace of this construction boom that the number of hotels and guest-houses has almost doubled in the last six years. The locals attribute this increasing trend to the official apathy on part of Pahalgam Development Authority [PDA].“It is all due to the neglect and carelessness of PDA officials that the soft green landscapes are turning into hard, strong concrete,” says Shabir Ahmad, a local resident.

The locals also allege that permissions for carrying out constructions are issued indiscriminately for erecting structures even at those places which fall in the green-belt areas.

They also complain that while as their files seeking permission for constructions are pending in the PDA for past few years, the authorities on the other hand have perfected the habit of issuing permissions to their favourites – “those who grease their palms”.

“I applied for the permission to construct a guest-house some four years back and till date I have no information as to what has happened to my file,” said Mohammed Yousf, a local from Laripora village in Pahalgam.

Besides the green landscape, most of the agricultural land has also fallen prey to the random concretization going on here. Pahalgam in total constitutes of nine villages and among these the largest village Laripora is the worst-affected. Concrete structures have even been raised at the hillock surrounding this village which is in total contrast to the features and ambience of the landscape here.

Most of the newly-constructed buildings are multistoried one, violating the law which prohibits constructions beyond two storeys at health resorts.

When this question was posed to Abdul Rashid Parray, CEO, PDA, he said, “Violations and illegal constructions are certainly there and we have taken a strict note of it and we have imposed an immediate ban on all types of such constructions.” He said PDA has sent a report to the government in this regard to prevent the fragile ecosystem of the place.

About the building permissions being denied to the locals, he said that not much land is available with the locals. “As a rule it is mandatory to have two or more than two kanals of land to erect a structure, and most of the locals don’t have it; and then there is also a comprehensive master plan on cards of PDA,” Parray said.

PDA’s assertions and talk of master plan aside, unfortunate reality is that construction s are going on at random and without any respite. And if the situation continues like this for some more time, scenic splendour and green landscape of Pahalgam will soon be a thing of past.

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