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, December 22, 2008

Saving the Wullar

Iftikar pleads a case for saving the Wullar Lake which has shrunk from 20,000 hectares to just 2400 hectares in less than 60 years

(Mr. Iftikar Rashid Wani, 29, was born in Bandipora and received his primary and undergraduate education in the Bandipora district. He completed his M.Sc. degree in Environmental Studies from Guru Ghasidas University in Chhattisgarh, and subsequently received M.Ed. degree from the University of Kashmir. He has also completed a one year Diploma from the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCUPL). He is a teacher in the Department of Education, in Bandipora and has participated in a number of science related conferences and has organized a number of sports activities, quizzes, debates and seminars till date. His hobbies are reading, writing and playing chess. Mr. Wani is a regular Contributor to Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir to highlight Environmental related problems.)

Wular is Calling!

While traveling through the towering mountains of the beautiful valley of Gurez, during his migration to other part of Kashmir, one local poet Ali Muhammad Bulbul wrote a famous couplet about Wular, comparing this fresh water body with that of the Nile of Egypt. Perhaps he was right because the year was 1947. The crystal clear waters of Kashmir were enough to impress the great poets and instigate their poetic instincts.

There was a time when famous lake of Asia –Wular- was so beautiful that every one would find himself bewitched by its beauty. One was stunned to see its beauty and remained motionless while casting a panoptic view on the entire stretch of lake. Its charming and serene environs were enough to motivate an individual to enjoy his leisure in the lap of Wular. Zainalank added to its attraction not only for local tourists but was the main source of attraction for foreigners also. Indeed Zainalank after the name of Zainul Abidin (locally known as Badshah) and the Wular are complimentary to each other.

The Wular is closely linked with the economic and social changes that take place in the valley. What is happing to this lake in the present times is a story of absolute gloom. Twentieth century turned out to be the killer century for Wular. The process of death and decay still continues. Once adding to the beauty of our valley, this aquatic body is fast disappearing, thanks to our own criminal negligence.

While casting a look at this water-body now, one hardly believes in what has been recorded about this lake. Instead of a huge, awe-inspiring and majestic beauty, there are some paddy fields, some nursery plots occupied by the Forest Department besides some playfields, moors and other such things here and there. Where is the lake! Wular!

Every conscious member of the society is crying for help, his heart bleeding; but no body cares. Although the impending dangers to the very existence of Wular have forced the State government to wake up in order to save whatever is left, and restore Wular from its present state of decay. Fearing possible extinction of Lake, the State government decided to constitute Wular and Mansbal Developing Authority. Crores have been allotted to revitalize the freshness of Wular and also to regain the natural beauty and grandeur of these lakes, but this effort from Government has suffered due to the prevailing conditions on the one hand, and by the callous attitude of those who are at the helm of affairs, on the other. The illegal and indiscrete encroachments, increased agricultural activities, wild growth of weeds, land reclamation, massive construction in and around the lake continue besides unmanaged layers of silt from Madhumati and Arin Nallas of Bandipora, together with the deteriorated water quality due to the polluted and contaminated inflow in to the Wular, is playing havoc with this famous Lake. However, the single largest contributing factor remains the decomposition of effluents from Municipal Authorities, irregular sanitation system and diversion of drainage system in to the lake. The result is not unexpected and in less than 60 years of time the Lake has shrunk from 20,000 hectares to just 2400 hectares only.

We have mutilated Nature, butchered it; and the consequences are in front of us all. In a recent report the production of Nadroo has drastically dwindled, thereby, effecting more than 30,000 people economically. Decrease in the production of fish and Singaras during the present season are glaring examples of the economic disaster caused due to environmental breakdown in the Lake

No matter we have a huge number of research projects undertaken and degrees awarded, suggesting the ways and means to restore the pristine glory of the Lake, Wular of yesteryears remains a distinct dream till date. During the recently concluded J&K Science Congress, one of the so-called Research Scholar from made some real ‘funny’ remarks. According to him Wular Lake abounds in clear waters, fabulous surroundings devoid of pollution. Such fascinating but misleading facts shall lead us no where. Isn’t it time for the scientists and policy makers to stop disseminating wrong information about Wular! They should rather underline the real picture of this lake. A picture that makes one yell with pain.

After all that has happened to this lake, let’s stick to the belief that it is not the end of story for Wular. It can be recovered into a healthy water body; but for that we should have will power.

Our concern for the Wular should transform into our topmost priority. If the paucity of funds is a problem, let the Government appeal to international bodies and seek help from them. In fact to some of my previous articles about Wular, published in local dailies, I received a number of mails from the Non Resident Kashmiris to help any body who is serious enough to work for the restoration of the lake. On the Governmental level serious steps need to be taken in this direction. The relocation of the villages like Zoorimanz, Kulhama and Zalwan on the one hand and stopping the inflow of sewage from the Bandipora, Spore and other areas can certainly help Wular to restore its freshness. Let’s take a pledge to work for the safety of Wular in every way. Teachers and students have a great role to play. We the people of Kashmir in general and residents of Bandipora, Sopore and Baramulla in particular have to reiterate the pledge for the conservation of Wular Lake and to make the beauty of it a reality again, otherwise future generations will know about Asia’s largest Lake from the history books only. We have a choice; either to continue with the current approach that will only ensure the annihilation of this water body or choose the path to undo the damage inflicted on Wular Lake. It is the need of the hour to strengthen the will and develop a new society that is conscious regarding the importance of lakes otherwise whole nation of Kashmir may have to hang its head in shame and guilt before the Creator of this lake, and the generation who had a share in this creation.

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