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, February 14, 2009

IUCN Lists Himalayan Snow Leopard as an Endangered Species

Government wakes up only after naturalists raise the issue

Kashmiri snow leopard listed as endangered

Srinagar: With the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) "Red List" of Threatened Animals categorizing snow leopard as “endangered species”, State government in collaboration with Union Ministry of Environment is launching a program to conserve the wild animal in its habitat.

The program ‘Project Snow Leopard’ will be launched in the last week of February from Hemis National Park in Ladakh and will later extend to Kargil and other hilly regions of the State.

“We are starting the Project Snow Leopard by end of this month. Environment Ministry, Government of India, has agreed in principle to launch the project in five Himalayan states. But the main focus of the project will be on our State and 60 per cent of total funds would be spent in J&K as we have 60 per cent of total population of Snow Leopard in India,” Chief Wildlife Warden A K Srivastava told Rising Kashmir.

The project, as per Srivastava, is a manifestation of the Government of India's resolve to conserve biodiversity with community participation. He said the Wildlife Institute of India and the Mysore based Nature Conservation Foundation would be the supporting agencies for the project.

Besides J&K, the project would be undertaken in four states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Scientifically known as Uncia uncia, the snow leopard is native to remote mountain ranges of Central and Southern Asia where their population is estimated to be around 7,000. In India the maximum population of snow leopards (about 60 per cent) inhabit Kashmir Himalayan mountain range at an altitude of about 3,000 metres above the sea level.

“The Union Environment Ministry will soon release Rs 1 crore to us for this project. In the beginning, the money will be spent on securing landscape for conservation, capacity building, research on wildlife and human activities in snow leopard habitat, grazing and management policies and education awareness in and around the Hemis National Park,” Srivastava said.

Regional Wildlife Warden Asgar Inayatullah said snow leopards are at the top of the ecological pyramid and suffer the most due to relatively smaller population size and also due to man-animal conflict.

“This situation has further aggravated in Kashmir due to hostile landscape and intervention of humans in its habitat. Its population has dwindled during the past two decades but the Indian Wildlife Board maintains that estimated snow leopard population in our State is around 200,” he said.

Inayatullah said the new project envisages active involvement of local communities in the conservation of snow leopards. "Our attempt is to address the identified threats besides strengthening the protected areas in Kashmir," he said. "This is a major challenge for us but the snow leopard is the heritage of the Himalayas."

The degradation of their natural habitat, poaching for their furs, reduction of their prey due to hunting and killings by local people in revenge for attacks on their livestock are some of the main threats, the Regional Wildlife Warden said.

In J&K, snow leopards are distributed throughout the Trans-Himalayan district of Ladakh and more sporadically on the Southern side of the main Himalayan range like Kishtwar, Tarsar, Liddarwat and Marsar (Upper Dachigam).

(Rising Kashmir)

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