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, December 19, 2008

Racing Towards Oblivion

It appears that the Kashmiri indifference towards its surroundings has the same affect on its people (vanishing Pandits) as on its beauty (vanishing lakes)

Illegal constructions devour Nigeen Lake; LAWDA In Slumber

Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: While the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority is making tall claims of measures to conserve water bodies, massive illegal constructions are going on in the Nigeen Lake.

Though the State High Court has banned any sort of construction within 200 meters of the water bodies, constructions are talking place on the banks of the lake.

Environmentalists believe that these constructions are taking place in connivance of some LAWDA officials.

A visit by this reporter to Nigeen Lake revealed that a boat shed was being constructed reportedly by a government department at Mirza Bagh just on fringes of the lake. The labourers have already cast a concrete mating and laid iron bars on plinth of the boat shed.

Few hundred meters away, three concrete houses are being constructed from the Nigeen’s Saderbal side. “This is sheer violation of High Court orders. Illegal constructions and restoration of Nigeen Lake can’t go simultaneously. Everybody is equal before law. But the LAWDA officials relax rules for influential and rich and don’t allow the poor people residing in the lake even carry out repairs of their hutments and houseboats,” the locals said.

A newly constructed Masjid overlooking Nigeen has come up from Lal Bazar side. “People are also equally responsible for Nigeen’s deterioration. They bribe the concerned officials to undertake illegal constructions, including a Masjid. The accused officials and offenders should be severely punished,” a local said.

Illegal constructions are also going on in Saida Kadal and its adjoining areas.

An official of LAWDA wishing anonymity blamed the candidates participating from constituencies comprising Dal and Nigeen lakes for the spurt in illegal constrictions.

“The candidates of various parties ask the lake dwellers to undertake the illegal constructions and promise to legalize them if voted to power. When we try to demolish the structures, the candidates threaten action against us,” the official said.

Pertinently, last year the authorities had launched a demolition drive in the Nigeen Lake and Pokhribal. But due to “political pressure’ the drive was suspended. “I vividly remember that a few decades ago there was no structure on the Ashai Bagh side of the lake. Now monstrous structures like the Nigeen Police Station are like a blot on the face of Nigeen,” a houseboat owner said.

Owing to its serene environment, Nigeen lake few decades ago was a favorite destination of tourists, particularly British for holidaying and water skating. With the passage of time, human greed and official apathy just reduced the lake to a cesspool.

It is said that waters of Nigeen was so pure and possessed healing properties that the Hakims used to advise people to drink it. But aged people of the lake give credit to Hari Singh, the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, for maintaining Nigeen lake. They said Maharaja had made such strict laws for the offenders that nobody would dare to even throw garbage into the lake not to talk of encroaching it.

“Maharaja had kept Chowkidars at nook and corner of the lake and given them so much power, which even the legislators don’t have. There was so much accountability and transparency that Chowkidars’ work was monitored by Numberdars. But now the lake is being encroached at will and whim of greedy people,” said chairman of Valley Citizens Council, Zareef Ahmad Zareef.

When contacted, the vice-chairman of LAWDA, Irfan Yaseen, said he will soon initiate demolition drive in Nigeen. “We have been frequently undertaking demolition drives in Nigeen. If constructions are still going on in the lake, we will immediately launch a demolition drive to check the menace,” Yaseen said.

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