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, May 14, 2009

Moving Towards Oblivion

Shakeel-ur-Rehman is not the first, and will certainly not be the last, to raise a red flag regarding deteriorating ecology of Kashmir. But do people care?

(Syed Shakeel-ul-Rehman, 32, was born in Qazipora, Tangmarg. He did his schooling at the Government Middle School in Katipora and at the Government Higher Secondary School in Chandilora, both in the Tangmarg Tehsil. He graduated in Social Work from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), being the first Kashmiri student to graduate with that major. He subsequently did his post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the same University. He has taken specialized courses in computer hardware and software technology. He worked as a columnist and correspondent for the Greater Kashmir daily newspaper until 2005 and is currently the Opinion Editor of the Kashmir Images daily newspaper. He also anchors Doordharshan Kendra Srinagar's live phone-in show called, "Hello DD" since April 2005. Mr. Shakeel-ur-Rehman holds the distinction of having interviewed prominent personalities in all major fields and walks of life, probably more than any other Kashmiri journalist.)

Alarming Situation

Kashmir’s delicate environment is under threat. And if the trend continues at the present pace the valley will face a difficult situation in the times ahead.

The frequent findings of the Pollution Control Board and other such organizations should come as a wake-up call not just to government but to all civil society groups and ordinary people in the region. Most of these reports have warned the administration of the enormous challenges they face on four fronts—fresh water scarcity, increasing desertification, deteriorating air quality and rising noise pollution.

These findings have even emphasized that these threats will only intensify in years to come because of global warming or climate change. It is a fact that we are not doing enough to deal with the disastrous effects of rapid economic development and reckless exploitation of natural resources witnessed in the region after the onset of violence in Kashmir. Take Dal Lake for instance. The water body, which is famous the world over for its clean water, is no more as clean as it used to be. Many maladies plague the lake right now.

Due to reckless inflow of unwanted matter, Dal is slowly approaching a stage from where it would be difficult to retrieve it. This is truly alarming and must be treated with the seriousness it deserves. Admittedly, ecological degradation is taking its toll in this state. Hillsides and forest are being turned into jungles of concrete. Air, water and noise pollution has become the order of the day. If ecological balance is to be maintained, we will have to take some measures. To begin with, awareness of afforestation must be inculcated among the masses.

It should be inculcated in the school curriculum and widely publicized so that people keep away from distorting the existing ecological balance. Additionally, smoke emitting from fast moving vehicles, industrial effluents flowing freely into drains and rivers, loud honking of horns or any other form of noise pollution must be curbed forthwith through specific laws. Strict laws must be framed for despoiling natural surroundings especially in the hills by unscrupulous land grabbers and property developers out to make a quick buck at the cost of environment and ecology.

These are some measures that must be taken for checking the rising levels of environmental degradation in the state. Although immediate measures will help us in the short run, for long term benefits the Kashmir state as a whole will have to put environment at the top of its priorities. In a region where natural resources like water, animal and plant life are already scarce and environment awareness is shockingly limited, we cannot afford to be reckless with what precious little we have got.

It is time for the state administration to come up with clear and effective strategies to tackle the immediate challenges they face, such as growing desertification, depleting clean water and our reckless abuse of resources. Environment agencies and bodies must be given necessary mandate and powers to fight their battle more effectively. And this is a battle they cannot fight on their own. We are in this together.

No comments: