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.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

State of Denial in Kashmir Extends to Changes in its Climate as Well

Arjimand highlights an inconvenient truth while ignoring civil society's obsession with a single point agenda that snuffs out any discourse on non-political matters

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 34, is from Srinagar and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University. He is also an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. His forthcoming book: "Confronting the Myths: A Critical Analysis of the Political Economy of Jammu & Kashmir" will be published soon.)

This winter is spring, so we better come out of denial

It is very much probable by the time these lines are in print, it is raining in the Valley. As I write these lines, latest satellite images show two to three weather systems hovering over Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These are likely to pass over Jammu & Kashmir.

What is very unlikely, perhaps, is that we will have snow in the plains. The winds sweeping across through our winter-time Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan corridor are unusually warm. The temperature of our lower atmosphere is also unusually high.

It is not only about an elusive snowfall in the plains. This winter, in the midst of January, we witnessed snows melting even in the hills alarmingly. These were traditionally the times of deep frost. They seem to have gone, as if with the wind.

At least five major Western Disturbances – the winter-time cloud systems that arrive in J&K from the Mediterranean Sea and Central Asia – have hit the State by now, and yet there is very little snow in the mountains. Plains have had to be content with more of rain, except for the November snowfall when cold winds had blown from the Himalayas, bringing cold clouds, resulting in snowfall. That was a climatic aberration, which normally doesn’t happen.

This winter is the most uncharacteristic, at least in my living memory. Frost is nominal in the plains. Temperatures in the hills are unusually high.

What is rather scary is what is happening with our flora and fauna. Budding of blossoms in trees and plants has already begun. Plantation of trees, which would normally begin in March or late February in the Valley, may have to begin any time now. In some areas plantation has already begun.

Like the previous year, we are all set to see almond blooming well ahead of the normal times this year too.

It is not that February snowfall is not possible. It is. But it holds even greater danger in these circumstances. We all know snows now hardly freeze. Melting happens much faster. A February snowfall has the danger of wiping out the blossoms in fruit trees, mainly in almond trees. Early sap in fruit trees make them brittle and bulky. A February snowfall could wreck havoc with them.

Many types of greeneries - including puffballs – are already here in the plains and some semi temperate hills.

When it comes to wildlife, we all know the patterns of hibernation and habitat have already drastically changed. I came across the torso of a dead wolf while driving in the Charar–i-Sharief Karewas this week. Locals told me it was the handiwork of some wild animal. When I asked them how that could be so, locals told me the unusual warmth in the Karewas was making wild animals come out of hibernation.

All these things look really scary. When the report Climate Change and its Impacts in Kashmir – authored by myself – was published in 2007, there was a huge international response, mainly driven by panic. Many people working on climate change issues from around the world wrote to me saying that given the profound visible changes we are having, we people need to get our acts very fast. Hardly anything happened. This winter is turning out to be a kind of watershed. This situation must wake up our policy making apparatus now. As things stand globally, the politics of climate change and our miniature status in the whole calculus make us more apt to work in the adaptation mode.

There is no more kidding in that humanity is on the brink. That is something the world realized when the UN Inter-Governmental Panel report on Climate Change (IPCC) was released. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth made things even clearer.

There is real panic around the world, which is not unfounded. What was unimaginable a couple of decades ago looks like a vivid reality now, staring humanity in its face. The IPCC report has debunked even those of the scientists who until recently denied that climate was really changing. It has virtually closed the is-it-really-happening debate. Now what the world is debating is how to slowdown the rate of this change to save the humanity.

Years of change in our climate has done many things to our lives in Kashmir. It is an irony that we haven’t started to look into how our climate has changed over the years. Our policy making system doesn’t seem to be keen on knowing what changes it was bringing about in our lives, mainly in livelihoods. We haven’t started to look at how the water sharing calculus between India and Pakistan would alter if the present changes continue unabated.

Though talking about climate change is about hard science, the changes that it is bringing about in our lives are discernible. And we are, of course, a part of the global future trends that the UN report has talked about.

According to the report global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.1 degree Celsius to 6.4 degree Celsius by 2100. What would that mean for Jammu & Kashmir? It could mean that the critical zero temperatures needed for snowfall in winters may not be available even in higher altitudes of J&K. That would mean critical snowfalls in the mountains to supply us water through the year. That, in turn, would mean lesser degree of glacier formation. And what would that mean for our agriculture?

It is likely that vast tracts of agricultural land presently fed by irrigation canals based on gravity irrigation would go dry. That is something which is already happening at a drastic scale. In the course of a study I could not believe the scale at which paddy lands have been changed into dry land orchards in the Shopian-Keller belt recently.

The IPCC report’s revelation that eleven of the last 12 years are among the 12 warmest years ever recorded on earth leaves hardly any scope for debate on global warming. That is quite well discernible in all the three regions of our State. All these changes, quite naturally, have huge economic costs. Drastic decrease in agricultural productivity, which on an average contributes 50 per cent to our Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), would shatter many livelihoods. It would result in food insecurity, and, possibly, even large-scale rural to urban migration.

It has been estimated that if the total impact of climate change is considered, then as much as 9 per cent of GDP of developing countries like India could be wiped out.

According to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria, India stands to lose 120 million tons (or 18 per cent) of its rain-fed cereal production.

There was a time when all these statistical statements sounded like doomsday scenarios. Today they are not so anymore. Mr. Doom has, perhaps, arrived. All we need to do is to come out of denial, and act.

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