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, June 4, 2008

Ecological Anomaly: Why is Kashmir short on drinking water?

Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink

Apart from the myriad of ills which afflict the valley of Kashmir one thing so obvious seems to have gone unnoticed so far. Even the ongoing environmental week which has witnessed many seminars and programs related to importance of environment, seems to be neglecting the basic issue of rapidly falling level of quality and quantity of drinking water here.

In a span of just few years the waters of the valley seem to have lost the volume and taste for which it was world famous. Springs are drying up, the under ground water level is decreasing, and its drinkability is also declining very rapidly. We seem to be talking about huge water resources and the potential of hydro electric power but we seem to be in oblivion when it comes to the upcoming water epidemic in our valley.

The water level in our rivers is not as it used to be. In towns and cities people don’t dare to wash even their clothes in rivers because the level of pollution is so obvious as if telling ‘Do not touch me.’ As for as sub-urban and rural areas are concerned the brooks and streamlets which used to be visible and shining even overflowing to pastures during the summer season seem to have shrunk like the dry vegetables Kashmiris used to store for lean days and even continue the tradition to this day.

As the experts are busy with their programs and seminars no one seems to mention that they have grown phobic as for as the drinking water supplied by State’s Public health Engineering Department is concerned. As is the fad now in every such function, packaged drinking water is served and no one seems to notice that it is priced at Rs 14-15 a bottle. We have been making noise (rightly so) that our economy has turned out to be a consumption market and we import milk, poultry products, meat, textiles without contributing a bit to the supplies, but everybody has been held by some unconscious pull regarding the water import. Yes, Kashmir valley is importing water worth crores of rupees for quite a few years now, and our local packaged water suppliers have not been bestowed by our good wishes so far.

Interestingly, Chief minster Ghulam Nabi Azad recently promised drinking water facilities to all villages within a span of four years, but as usual he missed to mention the condition of water which is supplied to people as drinking water presently. Perhaps he has never been told by his advisers that a common Kashmiri is very afraid of tap water as the mere sight of it paints the pictures of jaundice, cholera, and other deadly diseases in his mind. As in other areas of life, Kashmiris—rich or poor—have learned to adopt themselves to the circumstances and from a good number of years they use only boiled water for drinking.

The recent years have witnessed a surge in urolithiasis (kidneystones) in Kashmir. According to unconfirmed reports, every 5th person in the valley has this problem to some degree. Adding to the miseries, kidney failures is becoming an on and off situation in Kashmir now. Though the traditional therapists differ to some extent, alternative health experts are of the unanimous view that Kashmiris take water scarcely and this habit is contributing to kidney stone formation. Even the patients who are advised by their doctors to take good quantity of water have to force themselves to do so. In fact people of Kashmir are afraid of water and unconsciously they are avoiding cholera and other diseases. It is not feasible for everyone to buy packaged drinking water (even that has some question tags) and it is not possible to carry water with you everywhere. This is the grave issue concerning health and environment. But who cares in this neglected land!

(Daily Etalaat)

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