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.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Somber Assessment of the Global Climate Change and its Impact on Kashmir

Arjimand suggests that time has come for Kashmiris to become aware of the impending global catastrophe

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 33, is from Srinagar and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University. He is also an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. Arjimand is currently working as Project Manager for Action Aid International (India) in the Kashmir region and is a member of its International Emergencies and Conflict Team (IECT). His forthcoming books: " Kashmir: Towards a New Political Economy", and "Water: Spark for another Indo-Pak War?" are scheduled for release in 2008.)

As world debates climate risks, Kashmir needs to wake up


The days of discussion on whether climate was really changing are long over. The debate is today mostly centred on how people are actually adapting to this change. As the 170-odd delegates at the World Bank-ProVention Consortium Annual Forum were discussing climate change and disaster risk reduction issues this week at Panama City in Central America, what struck many of us was the similarity of the issues being shared. From the tropical environments of Latin America to the temperate regions of the north, from the Himalayas to the Alps, from Palestine to Kashmir, stories are similar: livelihoods are being affected, food security faces uncertainty and communities are already adapting to the change.

Just as I was making the point that Kashmir was already in an adaptation mode in my presentation on risks to livelihoods in our part of the world, we were in the midst of a precarious weather condition back home. After an unusually warm early spring, with blooming of almost all fruits and vegetables having taken place rather prematurely, we were suddenly in the midst of a cold and rainy spell which was far from desirable. It is not that spring rains and cold are a novelty in Kashmir, but the problem lies in early blooming and life in our flora due to unusually warm temperatures. And when early blooming is followed by cold spells of rain, hailstorms and even snow in upper areas, results could be devastating.

It is not that only people are already adapting to the change. Many governments departments dealing with agriculture and horticulture in our State are already talking about some serious adaptation issues. For instance, creating an almond variety which blooms late and is insulated from late rain and snow vagaries is a case in point. But one doesn’t hear of such adaptation measures in many other parts of the world. When looking at the adaptation preparedness of many countries I think our State is far ahead – like in the case of switch over from agriculture to horticulture. It is perhaps our State, being in a fragile and sensitive Himalayan eco-system, has been experiencing changes in more tangible terms.

But what we need to recognise is that this speedy adaptation could be a double-edged sword. It is very much possible that we are embracing longer term risks, which are currently disguised as short-term economic gains.

Communities across the globe are today talking about almost similar problems. But what are the choices before the developing countries and communities of Asia, Africa and Latin America – where adaptation of a large proportion of populations is not easy?

What our governments need to recognise today is that climate change, natural disaster-related issues need to be factored in their planning for poverty reduction and development. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), among other things, recently concluded that there were trends of higher frequency and intensity of extreme events such as floods, droughts and heat waves across the world. In this part of the world colleagues told us that more frequent episodes of coral bleaching, changes in patterns of cyclonic activity (hurricanes developing at lower latitudes, becoming more intense in a shorter period of time, and reaching higher peak intensities), as well as growth of habitats favourable to disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Amidst the global price mayhem of food commodities, weather vagaries pose greater risks to a stable food grain situation in the world today. On the one hand, governments of the developing world – as seen at the Bali Summit on Climate Change in November last year – are not ready to take the responsibility for mitigation and adaptation at par with the developed world. They have made it clear that both adaptation and mitigation have a price and it was the developed world which would have to pay for much of the costs involved.

The premise is that since global warming – among other factors - was happening as a result of green house gas emissions by the developed countries, they have the greatest responsibility to pay for the mitigation measures. For instance, the United States alone consumes 25 per cent of all the fossil fuel consumed in the world, and as such the buck stops at its doorsteps. Developed nations have started to increasingly talk about non fossil fuel-based emissions, like livestock emissions, coming from the developing countries.

The premise that needs greater recognition today is that climate change, poverty, development and disaster risk reduction issues are all inter-linked. Climate change is already impacting livelihoods and the pattern of livelihoods. As agriculture is today seen as the foremost casualty of this phenomenon due to water deficiency, floods and uneven rain and snowfall patterns, it is the poor who are mostly in the line of fire.

For countries like India and Pakistan, where a vast majority of people depend on agriculture for their survival, the uncertainty with food production has serious implications. Already the waters of the Indus system rivers are diminishing and the availability of water in time and space has become unpredictable. The brewing conflict between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states in South India over water sharing of their common rivers is a case in point.

When we look at Panama, this country is itself at a heightened risk to its economic and political stability. As Arctic ice is fast melting and possibilities of the ice cap softening over Canada and Alaska, for the first time in the history of mankind possibility of using that route for trade across the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean is emerging. Currently about two third of the country’s revenue comes from the fees charged from the ships that pass through the Panama Canal. The country has begun to prosper since it took full control from the US over the canal in 1999. With the prospects of the Antarctic melt down, the Panama Canal may be rendered redundant as ships would prefer shorter distance over Canada with the added incentive of paying no passage fees. That is something which is seen as a real possibility today.

Amidst all this what is inevitable is the north-south co-operation. There is no doubt in that it is the developed world which is responsible for most of the anthropological factors precipitating climate change. It is also undeniable that while precipitating factors are local, impacts are global. But can developing and poor countries take the burden of mitigation?

Of course, the prime responsibility of mitigation measures lies with the developed world of the north. But developing and poor countries cannot abdicate themselves of all responsibilities. While governments at governmental forums would devise formula to do that, back home in J&K we need to realise that no country is going to come with solutions on a plate to us. We need to have a home grown advocacy campaign on our environmental concerns with a global reach. We need the local government and universities to shift their attention to climate change and adaptation. We need research to be taken to the grassroots level.

No comments: