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, March 6, 2009

Another Legacy Feature is fast Disappearing from Kashmir's Ecological Heritage

Will the real Mr. Masood Samoon please take some action?

Div Com imposes ban on lopping of Chinar trees

Srinagar: Taking strong note of the alleged complaints from ecologists, environmentalists, NGOs and especially media that reckless lopping and felling of Chinar is taking place in every nook and corner of the Valley, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Masaud Samoon has imposed a blanket ban on felling and lopping of Chinars.

The Divisional Commissioner said that Chinar is the heritage of Kashmir unparallel in beauty, strength and size amongst the trees of Kashmir. It is fast disappearing due to reckless felling, unkind and unfriendly attitude of the people in general and callous interference of vested people in particular. He said permission for felling of Chinar tree can only be granted if five new Chinar trees are planted against one felling or lopping, which is not being done.

The Divisional Commissioner Kashmir has also directed all Deputy Commissioners that permissions for felling/lopping of Chinar trees, which have not been put to execution or which are pending grant for permission, be put in suspended animation and all such cases shall be referred to the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir for review and orders. (Daily Etalaat)


Srinagar: A day after the divisional commissioner Kashmir, Masood Samoon, suspended orders for any kind of chopping of Chinars, another heritage tree came under the saw attack at Raj Bagh Thursday mocking at the administration.

For the past few months the majestic trees had been coming under the saw attack.

As about the Raj Bagh episode, some time back the government had ordered “pruning” of seven Chinars on the Jhelum banks. Today the men with saw went ahead with the chopping targeting another majestic tree. Ironically, the assault on Chinars continued till evening and there was no government intervention.

“None from any government agency interrupted the chopping operations which continued till evening,” said a resident, Muhammad Yousuf.

The Chinar Development Officer, Meraj Din Kalla, had given the permissions.

Five majestic Chinars were uprooted at other places in the City in the recent weeks. The officials have been pleading that the trees were chopped for the welfare of the heritage trees.

Finally following a campaign by Greater Kashmir highlighting the Chinar plight, the divisional commissioner had suspended the orders.

“The orders which have been already issued by the district commissioner for the felling or pruning of Chinars will be reviewed by the divisional commissioner. And the authorities are being directed not to pass any further orders without the approval of the divisional commissioner,” the order from the divisional administration reads.

When contacted the divisional commissioner said: “We didn’t get any information about the pruning of Chinars in Raj Bagh otherwise we would have taken action.”

“We will take action against those who are found violating the orders,” Samoon told Greater Kashmir.

There is a third point of view ....


Rashid Paul (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: The government decision to impose blanket ban on felling and pruning of Chinars has received mixed response from people here with some demanding stricter implementation of Specified Trees Act which ensures their protection.

“Instead of creating more institutions, the government should focus on the existing laws that ensure protection of Chinar,” said M Salim Beig, chairman of the Kashmir chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Culture (INTACH). He said the ban is an attempt to “deflect” the current uproar over the deteriorated state of Chinar trees.
“The order crafts a new organization that will ultimately end up as a catalyst in the process of Chinar extermination as has happened under the existing institutions,” he said.

Cutting and lopping shall be allowed as per the need, but constitutional remedies need to be executed on war footing, he added.

Senior High Court lawyer, Zafar Ahmed Shah said, “Chinar has been declared as a royal tree of the State, but it is being axed illegally and culprits go unpunished.”
Besides strict enforcement of law, Shah suggested the institutions concerned with its preservation be brought under scanner in the legislature and the courts.

“The prevailing condition of Chinar explicitly manifests that the authorities are not discharging their functions properly. They need to be accounted for, and persons having commitment towards the preservation of heritage be entrusted the responsibility,” he said.

“Public need to be sensitized and exhorted to support the preservation efforts,” Shah added.

Abdul Rashid Mir, former Chief Conservator of Forests flayed the decision of centralizing the felling and pruning of Chinars with the divisional commissioner.
“The powers will ultimately trickle down to the lower rung revenue department officials who are always in news for bad reasons,” Mir said. He alleged Chinar Development Authority is responsible for destruction of Chinars in Kashmir.

“The authority should be done away with and the tree should be directly managed on scientific lines by the officials devoted to conservation and preservation of heritage symbols of Kashmir,” Mir believes.

Meanwhile, some people have actually hailed the government decision.
Prof Abdul Qayoom Rather, head division of Environmental Sciences at the Agricultural Sciences University appreciated the blanket ban decision.
“It is late, but a welcome one,” he said.

Rather said besides a heritage tree, Chinar acts like a big natural factory in cleaning the environment and supplying purest form of oxygen.

Defending the ban, Amir Ali, private secretary to Divisional Commissioner said the order will trickle a message to the wrong elements in the government and the public.

“It will help stop illegal cutting of the tree,” he said.
“The government is not averse to the felling or cutting of branches wherever required,” he said.

According to the official order, permission for felling of Chinar can now be granted by the divisional commissioner and five new Chinars shall be planted against one legal felling/lopping.

The order further put in suspended animation all the orders by lower ring officials.
“All such cases will be referred to the Div Com for review,” the proclamation reads.
Furthermore, the SHOs have been asked to take cognizance wherever felling or lopping is Chinars is carried out.

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