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, July 11, 2008

With Traditional Agricultural Lands Being Used For Building Homes, Wetlands Become a New Target

The news is as disturbing as it is illogical

Haigam wetland turns into paddy-field: courtesy of farmer-official ‘nexus’

Faheem Aslam (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: In violation of court directions, the Wildlife Department is encouraging some farmers to cultivate paddy in the famed Haigam Wetland Conservation Reserve in north Kashmir’s Varmul district, sources told Greater Kashmir.

The reserve, they added, is being turned into a paddy field by some “unscrupulous” farmers who are allegedly working in connivance with the authorities.

Sources said the farmers from nearby areas have gradually started to encroach upon many acres of the wetland by cultivating paddy. This is despite the High Court directions of 2003 that ask the authorities to remove the encroachments in and around the reserve and curb the paddy cultivation.

The reserve, included in Indian Bird Conservation Network, receives nearly 300,000 migratory birds, ducks and waterfowl species annually.

According to wildlife experts, it is an important breeding site for birds and refuge for over dozen species of shorebirds and several trans-Himalayan species besides a major attraction for tourists, locals and researchers. But, they said, the massive encroachments and paddy cultivation are bound to threaten the existence of the reserve—an important wintering area for migratory waterfowls.

Some years back, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the court, after which a committee was formed to look into the issue of paddy cultivation and encroachments in the area. In its report, the committee submitted that “due to dry spell for last so many years, this water reserve had become totally dry with the result the inhabitants of villages Rakhi Haigam, Wandhapora, Akhnoonpora, Gohaltangpora and Watallanhi had encroached upon the land by erecting bunds, breaching bunds, and the encroached land had become paddy-cultivable.” It stated that due to joint efforts of district administration, police and Wildlife department, 4189 kanals of encroached land were cleared and remaining area would be evicted after demarcation by the Revenue Department.

“We make it clear that the process of clearance of any minor encroachments still subsisting shall be accelerated and disposal of this PIL shall not be taken as loosening of the noose by the concerned Revenue and Wildlife officials,” the court’s Division Bench comprising Justices VK Jhanji and Syed Bashir-ud-Din had directed while disposing the PIL in 2003.

However, during past few days, the farmers have encroached upon the wetland again, sources said. The chief wildlife warden, A K Srivastava, admitted that some people had again started cultivating paddy in the reserve. “But we have asked the district administration, regional wildlife warden and the concerned wildlife warden to look into the matter and restrain people from cultivating paddy in the reserve,” he told Greater Kashmir.

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