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

The River of Tragedy

Jhelum is the lifeline of Kashmir, save it from choking

Save water bodies

Mohammad Yusuf, University of Kashmir

“Save Water Bodies”, an awareness rally launched jointly by the Tourism Department, Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Kashmir Rafting Operators Association on river Jhelum, from Zero Bridge to Safakadal, is a laudable idea conceived by these organizations. The campaign will certainly aware and educate the masses, particularly the people living on both banks of river Jhelum in the Shahri-Khas of Srinagar city, about protecting water bodies from pollution, degradation and encroachment.

It will also suggest people to desist from throwing polythene, rubbish, dead animals and other human waste in the water bodies which cause health hazards in the entire valley. The Rally would also study the state of water pollution that is threatening the existence of river Jhelum and its world-famous tributaries- the Manasbal and the Wular lakes etc. It is obvious that the studies will reveal that the paradise is indeed in peril. It is not hidden to anyone that water level in Wular and Jhelum has gone so low that one could walk through the waters; the gateways to the lakes are choked with sand, silt, polythene and sewerage. It is an alarming situation now and we all will have to wake up and gear up to protect our heritage, the Veth (Vitasta) for our posterity. Earlier a similar awareness campaign was launched by N.L.C.O at Nagin Lake but that move remained confined to Nagin Lake only. It is unfortunate that the LAWDA has not incorporated Jhelum in its “Development of Waterways” programme, though Jhelum has remained most important waterway of Kashmir for ages. On the other hand measure share of the garbage of Srinagar city goes to Jhelum via different outlets of Dal, Nagin, Manasbal and Sindh nallah; and S.M.C acts as a mute spectator.

The Awareness Rally, in a caravan of multicolored inflatable rafting boats, kayaks and motor boats, will have a good impact on people and attract their attention towards this noble cause. The campaign starting from Zero Bridge and after passing through historical Amirakadal, Habbakadal, Fatehkadal, Zainakadal, Alikadal and Nawakadal bridges will finally terminate at Safakadal. Besides Directorate of Physical Education and Sports, Kashmir University, J&K Police Water Sports Team, a large number of students from different schools and colleges are expected to take part in this awareness campaign. Many other senior citizens are also expected to partake in it. Srinagar Municipal Corporation, members of Srinagar District Winter Games Association and Sports Fraternity Dalgate etcetera are also to participate.

Protecting our water bodies is a social obligation for all of us. Every citizen must come forward and propagate that saving nature is to save our future. At Village, community and school level environmental awareness education is the need of time.

There is no other way but to preserve our water bodies for future generations and handle water resources carefully. Sanitation close to water bodies is yet another dangerous way of polluting water and we will have to avoid it now. The waters of our water bodies have become poisonous and are no more the elixir of life. The decaying animal carcasses in contaminated water will give birth to Cholera like diseases. Srinagar is known as city of Lakes. Because of its lakes and rivers it attracts tourists here. If we kill them no tourist can be expected to come here in future.
Due to receding glaciers and water pollution there is a water crisis everywhere today. But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is because of managing water bodies so badly that billions of people and the environment – suffer badly. Globally, about 38% of the population lives in countries where there is severe water stress. Water sources are often far away, dirty, and unsafe for drinking due to microbiological contamination. It is surprising that at various places in Kashmir, where water is in abundance, people are facing increasing problems of water scarcity. Adequate portable water is not available to many.

Increasingly water pollution is creating a problem for people and the environment, not only in urban areas but also in areas where there is intensive agriculture. Dal Lake is probably one of the worst examples in terms of deteriorating water quality. Sewerage from millions of people in Srinagar city and other rural areas are responsible for the sludge flowing down river Jhelum. If this continues in future many may face shortages of water to produce their daily food and to cover their domestic needs. Increasingly water pollution is becoming a concern for all of us.

There is need to make both upstream and downstream populations aware of what result could be if pollution of Jhelum continues, which acts as a principal artery of Kashmir and many places in Pakistan. The major water pollutants are chemical, biological, or physical materials that degrade water quality. In Kashmir the common pollutants are pesticides and herbicides, hazardous wastes, sediments, infectious organism and excess organic matter.

Our water bodies also play an important role in attracting tourists to Kashmir. Srinagar is known as “city of Lakes. Mountain Rivers invite adventurers. We have natural felicities available here for different aquatic sports like wild water rafting, canoe polo, water skiing, kayaking and canoeing, rowing, and distance swimming etcetera and we can hold international level events on our water bodies. So these are equally important for our economic development. Not only sports but Mountain Rivers are also important for power generation and are thus important for our economic development as well. We will also have to take care of our mountains, as these are often referred to as natural “water towers” of the world. These are of paramount importance for food production and drinking water as well as for energy and industrial manufacturing. An adequate water resource for future generation is not only a regional issue but also a global concern. Demand for water has increased six fold globally in the past 100 years and about half of all available freshwater is being used directly for human purpose. So now is the time protect our water arteries, otherwise we will have to repent.

(Rising Kashmir)

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