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.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Vanishing Heritage: Can Wullar Lake be Saved in Time?

Saleem poses the most appropriate question of the day

Will Wullar be saved in time is the question of concern


Geologically primeval, culturally indispensable, geographically important drainage system, ecologically fragile, internationally a Ramsar site and economically vital — the history of Asia’s larges fresh water lake dates back to the time when the whole of the valley of Kashmir was a vast lake called ‘Satisar’ believed to be formed during the tertiary era due to the upliftment of Pir Panchal mountains as a result of glaciations and tectonic movement. A high intensity earthquake caused draining out of this water near Khandanyar in the Southwest direction, however, in certain depressions the water did not drain out completely. This gave birth to the Wullar Lake and its sister lakes like Dal, Manasbal, Anchar etc.

Wular lake, the largest fresh water body of Asia lies about 35 km Northwest of Srinagar at an altitude of 1580 metres above sea level is mostly located between Sonawari and Bandipore. From time to time different sources have given different dimensions of the lake, however a latest satellite imagery shows the lake area has been reduced from 202 square km to just 30 square km which seems more near to reality when actually seen on ground and if situation continues it will become a tale of past.

The lake is receiving millions of tons of silt every year, changing its characteristics and topography altogether, as the areas through which its feeding channels Ningli, Kanigund, Erin, Madhumati, Jhelum and others traverse, have witnessed heavy deforestation over the past four decades especially last 10 years. Thus helping in shallowing the lake depth which once was 2.75 m and now at most of places it 1.83 m. The pollution load in the lake is on a steep rise. All the drainage and sewage of settlements on its shores is dumped, deteriorating its water quality. There has been a high degree of chemical alteration in the lake, mostly indicative of organic pollution. Plants like Salvinia (Water fern), Lemna(Duckweed), Myriophyllum, Ceratophyllum, all indicative of pollution, are found in abundance in the lake. But people living on its shores are still using its water for a variety of purposes and thus become vulnerable to manly gastro-intestinal diseases.

About 15,000 people, residing in the hamlets within the lake particularly in the stretch from Sadarkot to Laharwalpora (Bandipora) are directly earning their livelihood from the lake. Out of these 8000 are fishermen and others make their living by selling plants like Nadru, and Trapa (Gour) and many other products thus making their livelihood. But there has been decrease in the production of these plants over the years. Even some valuables have become extinct due to the pollution of water. The lake currently looks like a small cesspool surrounded by thousands and lakes of willow trees and agricultural fields.

The worst problem is the unabated encroachment going in the lake despite of the direction by Hon’ble High court in 2006, on the basis of a litigation filed by a group of youth of Bandipore. To save its skin the state government engaged an international organization for formulating a Management Action Plan of the lake. The organization submitted it before the government some 5 months back but the report is still eating dust in the corridors of power.

The government also established a weak and powerless Wular Mansbal Development Authority which has so for name sake managed to construct few huts and parks near Mansbal. The motive seems to divert the attention of Hon’ble High Court from the main issue that is the restoration and development of the lake.

Enough politics has been going on in the name of Wular Development Project from past few years but practically the lake is on the verge of extinction. If those at the helm are really interested in its conservation, the Management Action Plan should be discussed on table and decision be taken accordingly. People here keep high hopes with the World Environment Day on June 5. May be it strikes their conscience to save this vanishing heritage lake of the valley.

(Greater Kashmir)

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