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.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Kashmir University's Declaration of Naseem Bagh as a Heritage Site - Is it for real?

The announcement by Professor Riyaz Punjabi, Vice Chancellor of the Kashmir University, is being challenged based on University's role in destroying the "Chinar Orchard"

VC’s heritage site slogan hollow

Baba Umar (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: A day after Vice Chancellor of the University of Kashmir (KU), Professor Riyaz Punjabi declared KU’s Naseem Bagh as a heritage site, environmentalists termed it as a “hollow slogan.”

“To declare something as a heritage site, one needs to conserve it, but they (University administration) are constructing a huge three-storey guest house in the middle of Naseem Bagh, how come these things gel together,” said an environmentalist on the condition of anonymity. “You cannot declare something as a heritage site at the cost of legendary Chinars and the landscape.”

“Naseem Bagh, the world’s biggest Chinar orchard, at one time had around 1200 chinars; however, due to lackadaisical attitude of the authorities, there are only 300 of them left as on date,” the environmentalist added.

According to the KU insiders the Chinars were exposed to danger when the construction work in the Naseem Bagh was started by Varsity authorities in April 2007. Now with the work on the guest house going on, environmentalists fear that with the passage of time; the remaining Chinars may become a history.When probed whether the university will stop the construction, the varsity’s VC maintained that it is heritage site, however, KU cannot call off the work on the site.

“Let us think positively, I believe we can have a construction in the Naseem Bagh and simultaneously it can be a heritage site,” Professor Riyaz Punjbai told Rising Kashmir. “But I assure all that it will be a last and final construction in the Naseem Bagh campus .”

Asked if KU is planning to carry out any Chinar plantation drive in the campus to compensate for the earlier losses, he said saplings of Chinar have been sown in the other areas of the varsity but not in the Naseem Bagh.

In 2007 the Chinar Development Authority (CDA), a government body assigned with protection of Chinar trees, had rejected KU’s plans for construction of guesthouse in the historical Naseem Bagh.In its letter to Deputy Commissioner (DC) Srinagar, it had sought immediate withdrawal of construction work from the Naseem Bagh citing numerous reasons. It had noted that the construction of kitchen sideways the guesthouse would turn into a reproduction ground for insects and moss that would eventually lead to demise of majestic Chinars of Naseem Bagh.

“Soakage pits will obstruct sewerage system resulting in the water logging which in turn will result in the decomposition of stems and roots of the Chinars, leading to their permanent death,” it had noted.However, Professor Punjabi maintained that the guest house would have a special sewerage system and nothing would be dumped beneath the Naseem Bagh soil.

“The guest house would include a fine sewerage system and everything would be pumped out of the campus,” he said.

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