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

Creating Awareness for Survival of the Wildlife

Jehangir requests humans to appreciate the beauty of the wild and give animals the space to roam freely

(Mr. Jehangir Rashid Malik, 36, was born in Srinagar, and did his primary schooling at the Green Land Educational Institute in Hawal, Srinagar. He studies at the Sri Partap Higher Secondary School for classes XI and XII, and completed his Bachelor's degree through distance mode from the University of Kashmir. He subsequently graduated from the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir with a Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. As a journalist, he is associated with the Civil Society, a New Delhi magazine, and is the Editor of Kashmir Plus, a news and feature based portal of Srinagar. He began his career in journalism as a correspondent with the Kashmir Times, and later worked at the Daily Etalaat (English) and as a news editor with the Daily Khidmat (English). He has been awarded the Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award for story writing by the Charkha Development Network, New Delhi, and has received fellowships from the Action Aid India, the Centre for Science and Environment, and the National Foundation for India, all based in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Mr. Malik likes watching cricket and listening to radio programs especially old melodies sung by legends, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar Ganguly.)

Wild and the Human

At a time when frequent reports of confrontation between humans and wild animals are pouring into media from various parts of the state, the experts in the field believe that the same is due to a few reasons and surprisingly there is no role of animals in this respect. Imtiyaz Lone, Wildlife Warden, South Kashmir says that frequent attacks of wild animals on human beings is due to population explosion and increase in livestock.

“Over the years human population has increased by manifolds and people were forced to look for places where they could settle down. Some of them reached areas falling very close to the forests and also to the areas where wild animals lived for centuries together. It is here that the friction between man and animal started and same has reached alarming proportions as on today,” says Lone. The Wildlife Warden opines that once the wild animals noticed that somebody has encroached upon their habitat they quite naturally reacted. He added that the matters were left unattended and no concrete action was taken to address the issue. “First we encroached upon the habitat of wild animals and also took our livestock to their new place of living. Once the wild animals observed the movement of livestock near their habitat they could not resist. They would pounce upon the same and consume them as and when desired by them. Naturally, this would hurt the man and then the same would be followed by human-animal confrontation,” says Lone.

The Wildlife Warden feels that his department does not have the required infrastructure to counter the attacks of wild animals. He added that people have expectations from the department to do their job in more professional manner, but fail to understand the lacunae as well as loopholes in the overall functioning of the department. “We have highly professional and trained manpower to handle the incidents related to human-animal confrontation, but the professionals are not available in the desired number. Besides, the equipments as well as infrastructure needed are not available in desired manner and these things are acting as a block in the better management of animal-human conflict,” Lone adds.

Emphasizing upon the need to carry out operations at the Tehsil level the wildlife expert says that the department has recommended to the government to set up flying squads at the Tehsil level. He believes that same would help in tackling the situation arising out of human-animal conflict in a quick manner with less fatal casualties to both human and animals. All this is quite understandable. Once our teams are present at the Tehsil level they would be able to reach their area of operations more swiftly compared to those coming from far off places. These teams should be equipped with all the necessary equipments and at the same time they should be given sufficient stock of tranquilizers and sedatives so that they don’t feel underequipped, hence incapable of performing duties.

There is also a need to stressing upon the cooperation from police department. Officials of the wildlife department feel that police have a pivotal role to play in handling the situation following the surfacing of a wild animal in a human populated area. The wildlife department and the police have to work in close coordination with each other. It is important that contact numbers of the concerned wildlife officials are with the local police station so that they could inform about any incident of attacks on humans by animals or vice-versa. It is the duty of the police to manage the situation as and when they a wild animal barges into a populated area. The wildlife officials need to be helped here because their rescue teams have the mandate just to recover the wild-animal and as such they are not expected to diffuse the situation and control the mob. “According to the Wildlife Act the mandate of wildlife department is limited to ensuring the safety and security of wild animals in protected areas and this is maintained at every cost. We are not responsible for any action of a particular animal beyond the boundaries of a particular protected area. As and when a wild animal surfaces in a human inhabited area it is the duty of police to save lives of people living there. We have to ensure that no harm whatsoever is caused to the animal and we have the necessary expertise to catch an animal,” say the department officials.

Follow the plan: There is a need to follow a methodical plan to manage the wildlife

At a time when frequent reports about man-animal conflict emanate from various parts of Jammu & Kashmir, the wildlife protection department believes that if some steps are taken then the situation of man-animal conflict can be handled in a better way.
In the man-animal conflict management plan submitted by the Department Of Wildlife Protection to the previous government, number of, both non-recurring as well as recurring, measures have been listed, taking care of both humans and animals.

The non-recurring measures which have been mentioned in the plan are:

1. Special Research Study: The wildlife protection department has impressed upon the need for carrying a special research study so as to assess and evaluate the reasons for sudden increase in the number of cases of man-animal conflicts. This, according to department officials will facilitate development of a comprehensive project proposal laying down clearly the strategies that should be adopted along with time lines and an action plan based on preliminary assessment of the situation in each conflict area.

This research project could be outsourced to some organizations like the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), New Delhi and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun as they have the necessary experience and technical expertise to carry out the job.

2. Survey & Census: Census of black bear and leopard has not been conducted so far in Jammu & Kashmir state. There is no record to indicate whether there is a rise or decline in their number. However, circumstantial evidences based on their frequent occurrence in the habitations and the rising number of man-animal conflicts indicates that their number has perhaps increased. This is also because there has been complete ban on hunting and fur trade in the state since 1997.
Besides, rescheduling of black bear from schedule III to schedule II of the J & K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978 (amended upto 2002) has also offered the species a better protection. The proposed survey and census of leopard and black bear shall be conducted in collaboration with WII, Dehradun involving modern techniques of camera traps and radio telemetry (using manual, aerial and GPS collars), wherever possible.

3. Setting up control rooms, facilities for mobility, communication and provisions for creation of additional staff: The department is already short of vehicles as a result some field officers have not been provided any kind of transport. It is proposed to set up control room in all the districts of the state. Each control room will be provided with one jeep, one pickup / rescue van and basic equipments like tranquilizing gun, trapping cages, trapping nets, translocation cages etc.
The foresters will be provided with motorcycles. A provision of 227 lakhs has been kept for purchase of jeeps, rescue / pickup vans and motor cycles.
The control room will have the facilities of communication equipments like mobile phones, computers with internet facility, wireless network, etc. Each control room will be headed by one range officer who will be assisted by two foresters and four wildlife guards. This will involve creation of fourteen posts of range officers, twenty eight posts of foresters, fifty six posts of wildlife guards and thirty one posts of drivers.

It is also proposed to create three posts of wildlife veterinarian for Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh regions. They will be recruited by the department on posts filled by deputation from Animal / Sheep Husbandry Departments. The wildlife veterinarians will be under the control of Chief Wildlife Veterinarian / Biologist of the Department and will remain in close contact with wildlife wardens and range officers manning the control room. The requirement on account of additional staff will involve Rs. 149.20 lakhs per annum.

4. Proposal for purchase of a helicopter: When a case of man-animal conflict takes place in remote and far flung areas, it is nearly impossible to reach the site in time to save human lives or wild animals. It is prudent to provide a helicopter to the wildlife department along with a pilot on deputation basis. An amount of Rs. 12 lakhs per annum is required on account of salary of the pilot. An amount of Rs. 500 lakhs has been kept for the purchase of a helicopter.

5. Facilities for communication: The department is very weak in terms of communication facilities like application of computers and internet facilities, wireless networks, availability of telephone and mobile phones etc. Effective communication system would be the key success component of the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation programme. All the proposed regional and divisional level control rooms need to be connected by mobile phone services, wireless and internet.
Mobile phones are to be provided to all the staff involved in the programme, besides other field staff right from the range officer’s up to the level of Chief Wildlife Warden (including bio-veterinary, research and ecology wings etc). Wireless networking and internet facilities for all the divisional and regional level headquarters and wildlife bio-veterinary wing of the department need to be established on priority.

Because of poor communication facilities many cases of man-animal conflicts involving severe damage to human lives / wild animals go unreported. Many such cases could be prevented had there been better communication facilities. A few wireless sets were provided to the department by the Forest Protection Force (FPF). However, the same are defunct and non-operational.

It is therefore proposed to provide wireless network up to the range level and connect them to control rooms of the districts. The mobile phone is provided only to the Chief Wildlife Warden and not to any other officer in the department. It is proposed to provide the mobile phones up to the forester’s level. An amount of Rs. 207.65 lakhs is proposed to be provided for strengthening the communication facilities in the department.

6. Construction of Rescue Centres: There are no rescue centres in the state except one at Dachigam, Srinagar. It is proposed to construct 20 rescue centres in the state. Their distribution will depend on the intensity of the man-animal conflict in the area. A provision of Rs. 200 lakhs is proposed on account of the cost of rescue centres.

7. Field Equipments: There is an absolute dearth of field equipments like tranquilizing gun, trapping cages, trapping net and translocation cages etcetera with the wildlife department. At present there are only two tranquilizing guns in Jammu region, two in Kashmir region and one in Ladakh. It is proposed to provide tranquilizing guns up to range level. All divisions / ranges will also be equipped with trapping cages / nets and translocation cages. A provision of Rs. 50 lakhs is proposed on this account.

8. Electric fencing at vulnerable areas: With the decimation of forest cover and increasing biotic infrastructure in the forests, encroachments, deployment and movement of security forces and laying of mines etcetera wild animals have started coming towards habitations. Animals are also attracted towards habitations on account of easy availability of fruits, maize and other crops etc. The vulnerable areas will be provided with electric fencing to deter the black bear coming to the habitation.

An amount of Rs. 220 lakhs is proposed for providing electric fencing over scattered stretches of 100 kilometres and where necessary.

9. Veterinary facility: Veterinary wing of the department is very poorly equipped. The Chief Wildlife Veterinarian / Biologist of the department is without a vehicle. It is proposed to provide a vehicle o him and three wildlife veterinarians proposed to be recruited for three regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. The wildlife veterinarian wing will be provided with ambulance fitted with necessary surgical equipments and equipped with veterinary clinic equipments and drugs.
The ambulance shall reach the site of occurrence of man-animal conflict to provide immediate health care to the rescued animal and also during the translocation of rescued animals. Necessary laboratory facility, veterinary clinic equipments and drugs will be provided for three regional units of the veterinary wing. An amount of Rs. 150 lakhs is proposed on account of creation of veterinary facilities as mentioned.

10. Setting up of Forensic Laboratory: Study of the cause of death of a wild animal is an important aspect of the wildlife management. Forensic science is a specialized field which helps in exploring the cause of death and disease investigation. Samples collected from the field are studied and investigated in the laboratory which is equipped with special tools.

Post-mortem of a dead animal is also required to be conducted in such labs. Further the identification of various wildlife products or articles like antlers, horns, hair and skin is also conducted in such labs. One mini forensic lab is to be set up each at Jammu and Srinagar and an amount of Rs. 200 lakhs is proposed for this purpose.

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