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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For how long will they survive! Kashmir's Leading Scholar on Ecology Pleads for Public Awareness to a Growing Catastrophe

Dal and Nageen lakes are facing grave problems that can lead to their death, warns Majeed Kak

(Dr. A. Majeed Kak, 62, was born and in Nowhatta, Srinagar. He received his primary education from the Government Middle School in Nowhatta and his secondary school education from Bagi Dilawar Khan Higher Secondary School in Fateh Kadal. He completed his college education at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. In 1977 he was the first candidate from the University of Kashmir to be selected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the Government of India for a doctoral research scholarship at the university leading to a Ph.D. in Botany in 1980. He is currently the Research Coordinator in the Department of Botany at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. Dr. Kak has over 35 years of teaching experience and research experience of over 25 years. He has received numerous research awards resulting in publication of 70 research papers and has authored two books on Botany. He is presently engaged in promoting and strengthening local and regional museums, a project supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi.)

For how long will they survive!

Dal and Nageen are the prestigious lakes amongst all existing lakes in J&K state and are socio economically very important. There are more than 30 lakes both high and low altitudinal existing in the state. Some are called frozen lakes as they remain frozen for most part of the year.

These are devoid of macrophytic vegetation, rarely these are being visited by the visitors and trekkers, so are less polluted. The water is cool but crystal clear, notable ones are Aphartwat frozen lake, Kounsar Nag Lake, Shesh Nag Lake and Gangabal Lake. Alpine lakes are situated at alpine regions in the thick pine forests as Nil nag lake. It is partly inhabited by the villagers. Some margin is converted into agricultural lands and their domesticated animals like cow, buffaloes, cattle etc. are freely grazing and roaming around it, that has polluted the lake waters to some extent. These lakes are infested by restricted number of macrophytes; death and decay of these plants are filling the lakes bottom gradually, resulting in the shallowness of the lake. Only a few springs and snow fed streams are feeding the lakes which dry up during summer.

Valley lakes are all low altitudinal lakes. These encounter frequent visitors both locals and foreign. City and the notable towns are situated close or around these lakes. The notable ones are Dal Lake, Nageen Lake, Anchar Lake, Hokhar Sar Lake, Manasbal lake, Wular lake etc. Amongst them the Dal and Nageen lakes are worst affected due to biotic interference. Increase in tourist traffic and the rapid urbanization in both these lakes have disturbed the ecosystem resulting in their environmental degradation, which has taken the alarming shape for the past decade or so. The unfortunate part of the lakes is that these are present in the heart of city; all facilities are available to a visitor to reach them. Lake margin almost touches Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) and are just 5-6 Km away from the airport, just after 20 minutes travel, visitor is on his dinning table, in the house boat or in a hotel, wherever he wants to stay. The transport is available even at odd hours, Hotels of various ratings are available. House boats, Shikaras are always in a waiting queue.

Second important point is that the world famous Dal is situated at the foot hill of Zabarwan and Mahadeo; various attractive spots in these hills are worth seeing particularly Chasma Shahi, Parimahal, and Zeityar, wherefrom the aerial look of the part of the city and whole of the lake can be enjoyed. At the entrance near Dalgate lies Shankeracharya (Takhat Sulaman) hillock, beautiful mettle road leads up to the top of the mountain. It also provides attractive aerial look of the whole city and the serpentine course of the famous River Jehlum. Blessing and charm to the Dal and Nageen lakes is the presence of Mughal gardens around it, and the sacred Dargah Hazratbal shrine and the famous Hari parbhat Fort, all worth seeing and historical places are situated around it. So both lakes are vulnerably placed.

Both these lakes are situated in the heart of the city, where all amenities are available, so people started settling close to them. There were no prohibitory orders till 1974; although Maharaja has also laid certain rules regarding the conservation of Dal Lake, unfortunately nothing was implemented seriously. Ignoring this entire people started grabbing the water and converting it to land, both from its peripheral portion as well from inside in the form of making floating gardens. In the past, people were in need of lesser and little requirements for themselves as well as for their domesticated animals and used to depend totally on the lake. Fresh water was available for drinking and other purposes. All types of vegetables both for summer as well for winter were cultivated on the lake margins as well on the hand made floating gardens. Fuel was abundantly available for cooking purposes. Fodder was available; the earning from the lake was in the form of fish catch and the lake products including Nadru( Oriental Lotus), dried petioles of Nymphaea (Bumposh), Petches for weaving mats (wagoo) Sparganium for making ropes, to tie bundles, water nuts (Gour) and many other things. So they permanently settled in the lake and became lake dwellers first in ordinary shelters and later constructed luxurious, comfortable house boats both for the commercial purpose as well as for the residential purpose.

Since the lake provided all amenities to a poor man (boatmen and fishermen) he started grabbing more and more water area converting it to permanent land by making first the floating islands and adding Lake Basin to it. Ultimately made it to settle down forming the permanent islands. Due to increase in population he started constructing residential houses and hotels. This way the greed of the locals increased, with the result the lake started shrinking both from its margins as well from its interior. The area of the open water squeezed from 75 sq. Kms to just 15 sq. Kms. Recent survey confirms only 10.5 square Kilometer. Population started increasing by more than 130 % in the last two decades. Being internationally famous lakes the rush of visitors increased that compelled the lake dwellers to construct new house boats. Besides people started living round the margins, first converting them into Virwur and then by adding lake basins filling it with other domestic refusal occupied for their residence, They started domesticating their cattle and other animals; cultivation of vegetables both for their own use as well for commercial purposes. This way the chemistry of the water started changing because their entire refusal went directly into the lake which has totally changed the whole look of these lakes.

Shrinking of the lake took place by the conversion of the water first into floating land and then into permanent land, the quality of the lake water has deteriorated to an alarming degree and this change in the water chemistry by the direct flow of waste waters, effluents garbage, sewage directly in to the lake are two main reasons responsible for the deterioration of our attractive lakes.

Some water plants like Phragmites communis (Nar Gassae) and Typha angustata, T. latifolia (Petch) are uprooted; roots separated are tied with the long leaves of another water plant Sparganium ramosum (Deol) are allowed to float on the surface gradually lake basin and other residual matter are added day to day resulting the formation of floating islands then vegetables are grown and gradually these settle down forming permanent land. Making of floating islands in the lakes should be strictly banned. All those newly born islands should be immediately destroyed in the first sight.

Changes in the water chemistry have totally damaged the lakes. Addition of waste waters, effluents, sewage and the residual fertilizer, pesticides, Insecticides and herbicides of the floating islands have increased the nutrients of the lake water, resulting in the increase of the bacteria and coliform count and many types of algae that has caused the bloom resulting the change of the crystal clear water into ugly reddish green, unfit even for washing, pointing towards the advancement of the Eutrophication. Many of our economic plants have started dwindling and became endangered.

New intruders have started coming and flourishing that has completely destroyed not only Dal and Nageen Lakes others also. The tremendous proliferation of Azolla has created the alarming situation. It has reached to every nook and corner of all tributaries, channels, settling tanks etc. resulting in the complete covering up of the water surface. The lake looks like a green playing field at various places, because of the rampant growth with the result death and decay of the submerged plants will lead to eutrophication and destruction of all underwater life.

No comments: