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.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Revisiting a Nightmare

Why is Dal dying?

Dal Lake—the dying lake

Idris Wani (Greater Kashmir)

Dal Lake has always been the main attraction in the Srinagar city. Its tranquil water has always attracted everyone. Its beauty has attracted many poets and film makers. It was impossible to encounter such beauty anywhere in the world. Untouched till the Mughals invaded Kashmir, after which they laid the foundation of some hanging gardens in the lake and along its borders, it had an area of 55 square km which has now reduced to less than 11 square km, which include Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and the Nagin Lake.

Dal Lake, the focal point of Kashmir valley, located in the Srinagar city nowadays has become an epitome of pollution. To analyze the miserable situation of Dal Lake, let us take the ride starting from the Babdem area to Chinar bagh Dalgate to Boulevard road till Saida kadal via four-shore road. We will get an impression of big swamp or a dustbin instead of a once beautiful lake. We can easily spot encroachments, inflow of sewage and excessive weed growth. The 9,500 structures including human settlements (60,000 people), hotels (300), floating gardens, houseboats and dwellings throw a sizable quantity of waste in the lake. Fifteen major drains supplement to the pollution of lake. And our lavish marriage ceremonies and other parties add great ‘beauty’ of heaped polythene bags and solid waste near the banks of the lake.

It is estimated that about 80000 tones of silt, 31000 kg of nitrates and 4000 kg of phosphates are added annually to the lake. Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) has considerably increased whereas Dissolved Oxygen (DO) level has fallen below permissible limits. The lake like other water bodies in Kashmir has become Entrophic. The oxygen level has decreased which has directly affected the aquatic life of the lake. Various parameters exceed the permissible limits proposed by WHO.

The Pollution Control Board’s report of 2003-2004 says that the Dal is dying slowly as pollutants were six to eight times more than the permissible limit (as prescribed by the Water Act (Prevention and Control of Pollution) and also by the Central Board for Control of Pollution (CPCB). Another indicator is the chemical oxygen demand (COD), which was 41.8 mgl at the Nehru Park basin. Though the permissible level of COD is 9 mgl, it varied from minimum 18.76 mgl to maximum of 41.8 mgl, says the report. The phosphates concentration, which should be less than 0.1 mgl, was also found to be increasing, with 1.18 mgl recorded at Hazratbal Basin, and a constant increase recorded all through the Lake. The depth of the lake has also decreased from 17 feet in 1970s to less than nine feet.

If after one thousand years the Srinagar city will be excavated chances are only plastic bags would be dug up. We cannot rule out Dal preservation by saying that now nothing can be done. There is still some hope for us to save our precious lake. We should plant more fountains of water in the lake which will add oxygen in the lake and will increase its level. Schools should appoint volunteers who will educate people and students about the pollution in the lake and its ill effects. More dustbins should be planted along the lake shore and in the green belt area. Solid waste thrown in the lake should be reduced. And importantly, plastic bags should be banned. It’s impossible for any nation to perform any action without the will of the majority of people. So unless and until each person in the valley doesn’t feel for the beauty of Kashmir, nothing will change.

Today it is Dal Lake, tomorrow it will be some other place. God has bestowed us with such great beauty and we shouldn’t let it go waste. It is also important to have political will of those who act as political saviours for our valley. Some one has rightly said, “It is not enough that there is a collection of people with the common aim of working in unison towards an objective …Aspiration and desire are not enough, the leadership must understand this will’.

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