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.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"People in Kashmir Don’t Have any Concern for the Environment"

The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) says that 90% of valley hotels and restaurants do not meet any environmental standards

SPCB regrets lack of action against polluting hotels, restaurants, houseboats…

Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Notwithstanding the ever-increasing pollution of water-bodies in Kashmir, the hotels, restaurants, houseboats and health-care units all are contributing to the pollution of lakes and rivers here.

Displaying sheer indifference to the issue of pollution, not many of these establishments situated on the banks of world-famous Dal Lake or River Jehlum and other water-bodies have so far come up with proper sewage and liquid disposal mechanisms.

The sewage coming out of these hostels, houseboats and restaurants finds its way directly into the water-bodies including the already dying Dal Lake.

According to the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), there are only 30 percent of the hotels and restaurants in the Valley who have obtained No Objection Certificate (NOC) from SPCB whereas 70 percent of them along the Boulevard, at Gulmarg, Pahalgam and other tourist resorts are yet to obtain clearance from SPCB.

“These establishments are openly violating the norms and rules laid down by Central Pollution Board under Environment Protection Act,” officials at SPCB confess.

Speaking to ‘Kashmir Images’, Regional Director, SPCB, Mian Javed Hussain said, “Some 70 percent of the hotels and restaurants are running their commercial establishments without having obtained NOC from SPCB which is mandatory for running any commercial establishment under Environment Protection Act.

“These hotels and restaurants are contributing to the pollution of environment and water-bodies and are clearly violating the norms laid down by State Pollution Control Board.”

And going by the exact details as provided by SPCB, the amount of pollution is far more than what percentage figures communicate.

“In this 70 percent we have taken only Class I and Class II hotels and restaurants and not ‘dabas’ or cafeterias which too are violating pollution norms; and if we include them also, then percentage of polluting establishments will go up and will touch more than 90 percent,” Mian Javed informed.

These hotels and restaurants further aggravate the environment pollution once they switch over to gensets for electricity which are potential sources of obnoxious gases like carbon and sulphur.

“We have already directed them to make use of green gensets which are both pollution- and noise-free and can save environment to a great extent,” Mian Javed informed.

Asked what about those units who are not following the rules, he says, “We are a regulatory body and can just notice the shortcomings and at the same time can direct violations to the District Magistrate and other concerned agencies, and the implementation has to come from respective departments,” the officer said.

He also clarified that SPCB doesn’t give NOC to houseboats as “they are discharging all sewage directly into the Dal Lake which we can never approve of.”

“It seems that people here in Kashmir don’t have any concern for the environment. In other states hoteliers and restaurant-owners can run their units only after getting the NOC from concerned department and till then the registration is withheld; but here the hotels and restaurants are registered by the Tourism department without taking into consideration the basic criteria of vis-à-vis pollution,” Mian Javed regrets.

He informed that in 10 districts of Kashmir valley, SPCB has booked 257 hotels and restaurants and 65 health-care units (both government-owned and private ones) in the month of January alone for violating pollution norms

According to sources, the Tourism department too has compiled a list of some 90 percent hotels in Kashmir Valley who have not obtained NOC from SPCB. Even though this list was compiled some two years back, but due to the involvement of some big names the department is overlooking the issue and no action has been taken against the defaulting hotels so far, sources in SPCB said.

Director Tourism, Farooq Ahmed Shah was not available for comment.

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