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.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Promoting Tourism in the age of Climatic Changes

Two articles of relevance on September 27, the World Tourism Day

Tourism and climate challenge

Mahesh Kaul

Jammu: Tourism is an economic activity that has an impact on almost every sphere of human life. It cannot thrive in isolation as it depends on peripheral industries like transportation, accommodation etc. But with the passage of time and economic boom all over the world, the tourist demand has been affected in many ways as it has made great impact on the disposable income.

This has been a blessing for the destinations that have spots of great tourist appeal. The influx of tourists to the destination areas has solved the problem of the host community to some extent. But unfortunately the planners and policy makers in majority of the destination areas marketed the destination without taking into consideration the carrying capacity, infrastructure and other parameters like the cultural beliefs of the host populations. It has resulted in conflict between the host and the guest (tourist). But handling of such conflicts to some extent has been manageable.

Another important factor that is posing a serious challenge to the tourism professionals, policy makers and the tourism organisations is the "climate change". No part of the world is today free from this threat to the environment and hence, tourism. The world climate is today guided by uncertainties. In the present scenario the realities of tourism within the context of global climate change are in terms of its impact as far as adaptation to it at tourism destinations is concerned and the economic risks of climate change. It leads to tourism "vulnerability hot spots". Other realities are the implication for the tourism demand at the destination area, impact on the climate as resource for tourism, tourist behavior arising from climate change, impact of the mitigation policies on tourism demand. Emissions from tourism activities, the calculation of emissions from the tourism sector and its mitigation policies have caught the imagination of all the professionals linked with the tourism directly or indirectly. To meet the challenges posed by the global climate change the United

Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has proposed this year's theme for the World Tourism Day as -"Tourism: Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change". The determination to face this challenge lies in the input from the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, convened by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Davos, Switzerland in 2007, now popularly known as Davos Declaration. The stress has been laid to change habits , position renewable sources of energy, encouraging the tourism stakeholders to adapt, to mitigate and to use new technology. Emphasis is also to secure finance for the poor countries to respond to the climate change.

Davos declaration has helped to identify the following challenges that need to be faced head on as far as the global climate change is concerned:
1) Effective policy making
2) Capacity building
3) Financial Systems to support adaptation and mitigation activities
4) Reduction of knowledge gaps
5) Address vulnerability hot spots
6) Multidisciplinary action
Effective policy making is the key to any plan that can be materialized into workable action plan. It needs the inclusion of professionals from various fields that have bearing on tourism product or destination. Capacity building is needed not only in terms of the destination but also in terms of the human resource that is involved in the handling of tourism. It is more or less linked with imparting the adaptation techniques to see threats in terms of climate change as opportunities.

For that the scientific methods need to be simplified and not over simplified so that the adaptation does not lose its lustre. Financial support system is the backbone of any economic activity. The policy of setting up of financial support systems for the adaptation and mitigation activities is based on the policy that the developed countries will not be allowed to discriminate against the developing countries. It has been clearly stated in the Davos Declaration that the adaptation to respond to climate change is meant for the developing countries and the mitigation of carbon products is meant for the developed nations. Reduction of knowledge gaps means that the technical knowhow should be communicated in effective manner from the experts and scientists to common people in simplified language so that there is no communication barrier; thus leading transformation to be seen in the destination area in vivid manner. To address vulnerability spots is the key area of concern. The attention should be focussed on the areas that are prone to natural calamities like tropical storms, heavy rains, floods, drought, coastal erosion etc. so that the adaptability measures are implemented to minimize the adverse effect on the tourism and the tourist activity.

As already said in the beginning that tourism cannot thrive in isolation. It involves the support of various peripheral organizations and fields like transport, railways, airways, waterways, scientific community (like geographers, conservators, conservation architects, historians, etc.).Thus integration of these experts and many more is required to develop multidisciplinary action to face the threat of global climate change in order to develop sustainable tourism for better, peaceful and eco-friendly world.

Srinagar: On this World Tourism Day, Kashmir tourism industry is battling with uncertainty about its viability, particularly in the aftermath of recent unrest which saw tourism coming to a grinding halt here.

Until June this year, the inflow of tourists was smooth but due to worsening of situation following Amaranth land row, the rush of tourist dipped steeply.

People associated with tourism blame the Kashmir's economic blockade by Jammuites for the dwindling tourist traffic.

"Thanks to Jammu for economic blockade, our business has came to a halt," says president Houseboat Owners Association.

According to the available data, by June this year, 4,65,000 tourists visited Kashmir. Tourism department had expected around 10 lakh tourists visiting Kashmir by the year-end, but now they will have to readjust their expectations as well as figures.

"We were expecting highest number of tourists this year but unfortunately this time the number of tourists in not to out liking; it is very low," Director Tourism, Farooq Ahmed Shah says.
Reports further say that almost three lakh reservations were cancelled in the wake of the recent agitations and an almost equal number of expected unreserved tourists backed out due to uncertainty in Kashmir.

To restore the confidence of tourists from outside, government is planning many steps. "We are using print as well as electronic media to publicize our tourist destinations and we are sending across a message that Kashmir is a safe place," Shah adds.

Tourism is one of the major industries of Kashmir and a large number of families survive on it.
"Almost 1200 house boat families depend entirely on tourism trade and then there are Shikara owners, ponny walas and others. This counts for about 20 lakh people," president Houseboat Owners Association says.

It is pertinent to mention here that since 1980, September 27 is celebrated by the World Tourism Organization as World Tourism Day. The purpose of this day is to display awareness that tourism is vital to the international community and to show how it affects the social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.

September 27 is important since on that day in 1970, the Statutes of the WTO were adopted. The adoption of the statutes is considered to be a milestone in global tourism.

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