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, November 8, 2008

Lack of a Proper J&K Environmental Law Means no Environmental Assessments are Mandated for Large Projects

Basharat hears from NGO's who believe new power transmission lines will harm local environment

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 28, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

Power transmission lines threaten ecology and lives of people from 6 villages in Budgam

Srinagar: The public outcry about anticipated accidents and health hazards due to Higher Voltage Overhead Electricity Transmission Lines coming out from a 6.5 mega watt capacity mini hydroelectricity project that crosses through six-far-flung densely populated villages of Branwar belt of Budgam district has no takers in the governor's administration. It is not only that these electricity lines are a potent threat to poor people but the environment including flora and fauna is under constant danger due to this project in this area.

A Chandigrah based P&R Group is constructing a 6.5 Mega Watts capacity mini hydroelectricity project at Branwar on the banks of Doodh Ganga stream. Presently the management is busy installing electricity pylons and Overhead Electricity Transmission Lines (33000 KV) from the project to its receiving station

Over 70 per cent of this project has been completed and in next few months, there would no chance of shifting the transmission lines of this project from a highly populous area, which has become a cause for sleepless nights for this neglected lot.

Some of the affected families who had met authorities requesting them to shift these electricity lines, maintain, "The officials say shifting of these lines via Dood Ganga side will require more pylons and the wire." The officials, these families added, have promised to depute a team to assess their complaints. "We have also written to the chief secretary but no action has been taken so far," says a social activist of Budgam Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat.

Some locals who work in this project revealed that there is a nexus between management of this electricity project and local contractors who have taken some local influential people into confidence to provide cheap labour to the company.

A few NGOs working in this area term these electricity lines as a 'disaster in making'. "As this area witnesses heavy snowfall in winters there is clear apprehension of a big disaster in the area. We demand placing of these high risk electricity transmission lines via banks of Dood Ganga stream which is safer than this area," said representatives of the two NGOs-Awami Insaaf Committee and Citizens Council Chadoora.

Locals believe that it is not the human habitation but the trout fish is also in high danger. "The trout fish is found in Meckhanin area which is 16 kilometers from Branwar. The water for this electricity project would be lifted from this place and the trout found in abundance is bound to vanish," added some locals here.

Since Yousmarg-a famous health resort, is just 3 kilometers from Branwar, locals are of the opinion that this tourist place will also loose it sheen. "Tourists come here to see a water bowl and in absence of that water nobody will be interested to visit this place," said Dr Bhat.

The ecology of the area has also been disturbed by the management of the power project. The locals revealed that hundreds of Kail and Fir trees in the Doodh Ganga forest range of Pir panchaal division have been felled for construction of a Dam for the power project near Mundikhaal.

The migratory population at Godakhal, Dupakhal, Kandikhal has also been affected as the water from these places was drained by the project authorities. "It was only after our group informed P&R group chairman, the water was restored to the streams in these areas," said Dr Bhat. He added that the officials of forest department have become a mute spectator over these happenings. "One can see huge bulldozers and JCBs in the deep forests of Doodh Ganga forest range," added Dr Bhat.

"Even the water level of Doodh Ganga stream will be reduced nearly by 80 percent from Machekhanian to Branwar as the same water is to be diverted at Machekhanian which is some 16 kilometers south of Branwar and will be passing through huge pipes via forest compartments of Godakhal, Hamakhal, Mundikhal, Haijan and finally will fall down on the power project turbine at Branwar," Dr Bhat opined.

The officials of the two NGOs complained that the management of the power project did not consult environmental/forest experts while the work was started on power project. "We don't want the project to be closed neither are we against the development of area in fact the project has generated lot of employment in the area but this all should not happen at the cost of lives of common poor people and endangering our nature and environment," said Dr Bhat.

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