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.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Not a big surprise, Wullar Lake is also dying

Unchecked pollution, encroachment eat into Wuller's flora and fauna

Wullar’s fish, Nadru face extinction

Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Once famous for the largest fish production and rich flora and fauna, Wullar is gradually losing capacity to provide breeding space for fish species, Nadru and other water crops, mainly due to massive pollution and encroachments.

Blessed with a large expanse of pristine waters, Wullar some decades ago facilitated combination of capture and culture fisheries catering to over 50 per cent of Valley’s fish requirement. Besides its vegetation was considered a key component of the lake’s eco-system as it provided both ecological and economic benefits.

However, due to loss of critical habitat and alarming decrease in the water body’s area, propelled by the inflow of sewage, siltation and encroachments, the fish yield and water crops production, mainly Nadru, has witnessed a sharp decline.

According to a survey conducted by the global environmental consultancy, Wetland International South Asia, the resources mapping trends of Wullar indicate a steep decline in its fish catch over the past 50 years. “The total catch as extrapolated from the catch records from the surveyed villages has declined from 10,544 to 1476 metric tons per annum,” it states.

The survey states massive decrease of water level and its degradation has led to decline in economically native fish specie Schizotheorax and Nelumbo (Nadru) in the lake.

“Large quantities of sewage discharged from the Srinagar city and major towns flow into the lake resulting in increased euthrophication which has adverse impacts on the growth and development of the fisheries in general and sensitive species Schizotheorax in particular,” it states.

According to estimates, there are 2621 active fishers in Wullar and the rest are engaged in value addition processes like salting and drying fish. With manifold increase in population dependent of fisheries and decline in overall catch, the per capita income has gone down by 20 times.

Average annual household income from fisheries in Wullar is only Rs 22,528, which is insufficient to feed an average family of seven. “We are only at the verge of starvation. The fish production in Wullar has gone abruptly down due to pollution and dumping of polythene. Earlier, we used to catch upto 20 kilogram of fish in a day. Now, we hardly manage to catch 2-3 kilogram in a week. The alarming thing is most of the fish we catch are dead. Wullar has turned into a poison,” said Ghulam Muhammad, an aged fisherman.

The problems of the locals have been compounded by decline in production of Nadru. Analysis of trends on availability and dependence indicates drastic change in vegetational resources of Wullar over the past 50 years. Studies indicate abundance of vegetation particularly Nelumbo during 1950s which provided an income base to 75 – 80 per cent population.

“However, availability of Nelumbo (Nadru) has decreased by 56 per cent during the past 50 years owing to reduction in the lake area, siltation and decline in water quality,” experts opined.

Declining water resources has led to high levels of poverty within the communities. Population falling below poverty line around Wullar ranges between 41 to 52 per cent as compared to state average of 3.91 per cent. The most affected are fishermen of Watlab and Zurmanz areas. Due to the decline in fish catch, they are struggling to carry on their age-old trade. “Now we earn our livelihood by working as laborers. We are the first generation of fishermen of this area who have been forced to work as laborers for survival. We hold successive regimes responsible for Wullar’s deterioration as it facilitated its vandalization for political reasons,” said Haji Abdul Rehman a fishemen.

Exotic species such as Salvinia natana, Lemna and Azolla have profusely grown in the lake area and have assumed invasive character reaching nuisance proportions. “The lake is turning into a marsh. Fish and Nadru are vanishing fast. Due to heavy weed infestation and raising of lakebed due to siltation, it has become difficult to even row a boat. The lake is in its last throes, but who cares,” said Ghulam Rasool, a local.

Experts said the inflow of fertilizers and pesticides from nearby agricultural fields and orchards have speeded up deterioration of Wullar and its flora and fauna. “Absence of scientific management of Nelumbo (Nadru) and water chestnut in the lake coupled with deteriorating quality of its waters due to pollution ingress has badly affected the cash values and its crops. The level of pollution of Wullar has gone to the extent that carcasses of animals are frequently seen in its waters with stray dogs wading through to devour on them,” said Aijaz Rasool, who conducted surveys on Wullar for Wetland International.

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