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.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Srinagar Stinks on the World Environment Day While Tourists Find an Alternative

The filth and garbage upsets both natives and tourists and visitors discover an alternative to the valley (three reports)

Plight of river Jehlum no different in Baramulla

Srinagar/Baramulla: The Srinagar city remained virtually buried under huge piles of garbage and filth even on the 'World Environment Day' which went unnoticed today due to general strike and undeclared curfew restrictions.

Heaps of garbage could be seen on the streets in the city, including civil lines and uptown, as the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) failed to lift the garbage, including polythene bags, owing to the ongoing general strike and shutdown.
Obviously while people have been forced to remain indoors, the stray dogs and cows are having a virtual field day near the places where the SMC workers are dumping garbage.

People who have to venture out of their homes to go places for some emergency couldn’t help but cover their mouths and noses because of foul smell emanating from the piles of waste while passing through the areas where garbage could not be lifted for the past five days.

The SMC said they could not operate sufficient number of vehicles to lift the garbage owing to the strike.

Well, this is the plight of Srinagar, which can be described as a ‘stinking city’, the situation elsewhere too is no different.

Take the river Jehlum for instance, thanks to the beautification of its banks in uptown Srinagar, parts of it might no doubt look pleasant, but the rest of this river is as pitiable as ever.

The river which has all along been Kashmir’s life-line is dotted with huge mounds of filth and garbage along its banks in all major towns it passes through. The river has practically turned into a garbage-dumping site, mostly in the north Kashmir district Baramulla.

Notwithstanding the huge amount of money spent by the Municipal Council Baramulla (MCB) on cleaning and beautification of Jehlum banks, the accumulated heaps of filth and rubbish continue to be a characteristic feature of once pristine water-body.

Right from Khwaja Bagh to Khanpora and Veerwan, besides the common people the MCB employees are using the river banks as a place to dump all sorts of filth. And as if it was not enough, a lot of rubble and debris from construction sites too is being unloaded by trucks and tippers along the banks of the river.

“The historical river is dying right under authorities’ nose but nobody cares. Government may claim spending huge funds on its cleaning and beautification but nothing has happened on ground,” says a businessman and social activist Bashir Ahmed Kanroo of Baramulla.

“Almost everyday tons of garbage is being thrown into this river and the municipal authorities prefer not to see it,” Kanroo says, adding just pass through Azad Gunj pontoon bridge, Khanpora, Kakar Hammam, Old Town areas of Baramulla and “you are greeted with the foul smell of the garbage piled on the banks of this historic river.”

"Where can we dump garbage? The dumping site is too far away and we have all along been dumping it in the river,” says a sweeper working with MCB. He believes that water will carry away the garbage and “there is no need to worry”.

"The people in this town are utilizing the free services of river Jehlum and they do not care about the pollution of this important water resource," believes an elderly person Abdul Khailq of Khanpora Baramulla.

"When I was young, I would perform ablution five times a day for prayers on the river but now the water is so polluted that I do not want to look towards it," he adds.

Just from Khwaja Bagh upto Khanpora, there are over 200 toilets that empty directly into the river. Besides the fecal matter from these toilets and lavatories, even the dead animals are dumped into the river which has only added to the amount of river’s pollution.

And ironically, it is the same water from river Jehlum that is supplied to the people for drinking by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department. Of course they do so after carrying out its filtration. But then how much can people actually trust the PHE is subject to personal discretion – just remember PHE’s track record is not very healthy!

When contacted, president MCB, Abdul Rashid Malla, denied that scavengers of MCB have been throwing garbage on the banks of river Jehlum.

Exonerating the MCB staff, Malla put the blame on people saying that it is the common people who are polluting the river by throwing filth into it.

"Though we have built garbage-bins but unfortunately people have been throwing the garbage in the river and at its banks,” he adds.

He, however, promised “necessary measures” to stop people from throwing garbage and other hazardous things on the river banks. (Greater Kashmir)

Dal pollution, garbage in city irks tourists

Srinagar: The tourists on trip spending huge amount for holidays here feel depressed once they have a glimpse of the banks of the Dal Lake at Boulevard Road and the stink emanating from the heaps of garbage in the city irks them.

Visiting Kashmir for the third time is Mukesh of West Bengal is upset over the growing pollution in the Dal Lake.

“This lake is the face of Kashmir. If this lake is not taken care of then the whole tourist industry will die its slow but sure death,” warns he, while sitting in front of illuminated houseboats on the bank of Dal Lake.

Sharing same views are the number of his friends who point towards the bank of Dal at Boulevard Road.

“We can walk for kilometres on the border of the bank as weeds and lot of waste has made it concrete,” added Mukesh’s friend Mukul Gangopadhyay.

Donning warm clothes due to the dip in the mercury here for the last couple of days, tourists from various states can be seen strolling along the Boulevard road.

Mukul said that he visited Saraf Kadal, Habbakadal and many more places but all there was the reeking smell of garbage.

“Though the place is good, but civic sense is absent. I hope it will be better next year when we visit here again,” he said.

In the twilight when the sun hides away in the far-off mountains, the Boulevard road comes alive with foreign as well as domestic tourists thronging it.

Popping out of hotels and houseboats where they are putting up during their stay in Kashmir, the tourists enjoy a leisurely walk in the evening on the banks of Dal Lake.

Though mesmerized by the beauty of Dal Lake, Anil Deshmukh from Maharashtra who is here in valley for the very first time, regrets the pollution in the Dal Lake.

“It is great lake but its pollution hurts me,” Anil said.

He is also concerned about the garbage present everywhere as well as improper roads.

“Where is the Municipal and other department which are responsible for the maintenance of roads in the city,” he added.

Dr S K Jain of Delhi also echoes the same views as others and demand immediate removal of the garbage from the city roads.

“I don’t see any reason for the Municipal officials to keep the garbage in beautiful Srinagar city,” he explodes, while sitting with his wife in front of the raised embankment of Dal Lake. Though, his only disappointment is the closure of shops in the city.

However, it does not deter him to cut short his itinerary as he leaves back to his home on his scheduled date. Jain is here for the second time but “I will be here again next year with my entire family. My children at Delhi are very much curious to see this place,” he hopes. (Kashmir Images)

Tourists prefer Bhaderwah to Kashmir

Jammu: Srinagar’s loss of tourists owing to violence, protests and bandhs has become a gain for Bhaderwah, popularly known as mini Kashmir of the state.

Owing to its icy peaks, rivers, gardens, lakes and the journey along the gushing Chenab, this hill station, 280 km from Jammu, in Kishtwar district is witnessing a heavy rush of tourists for the first time in many years.

“There is a sudden rush of tourists. Against the capacity of 200 tourists in hotels and guest houses here, we have registered 250 tourists yesterday. So we had to request local residents to provide emergency accommodation to the tourists in their houses,” Talat Parvez, Bhaderwah Development Authority (BDA) director, said.

To reach Bhaderwah, one has to turn to Batote from Patni Top hill station instead of following the Srinagar road.

Mukesh Kumar, who has come here along with his wife, from Patna said: “We had planned to visit the Srinagar valley after paying obeisance at Vaishno Devi shrine, but due to the ongoing unrest in the valley, we had to cancel our plans. Then our tour operator suggested us to visit Bhaderwah. We were awestruck when we saw Baglihar reservoir over the Chenab. I was so thrilled to feel the snow at the Mini Kailash parbat.”

Ganpat Prasad Gupta from Chhattisgarh said: “We have heard that the Jai valley, near Bhaderwah, is an excellent trekking spot. If all goes well, we can even spend night in the tents erected in the forests for the tourists. (Tribune News)

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