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, June 25, 2009

State's Mantra: Go Where the Money is

But will anything significant be achieved? Does the sun rise from the west?

Protecting Kashmir Environment: Jairam flags off Rs 2000 Cr mega project

• Dal Lake : Rs 1100 Cr
• Wular Lake: Rs 386 Cr
• Forest protection: Rs 600 Cr

Srinagar: Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh Monday announced a number of monetary packages of the Government of India to the tune of over Rs 2000 crore to protect State’s green pastures, forests, rivers and lakes.

Addressing a press conference here at SKICC on the banks of Dal lake, Ramesh said Rs 1100 crore will be spent on cleaning of the lake and rehabilitation of Dal dwellers.

“However it will go in a phased manner which will initially involve Rs 300 crore to be spent on cleaning of the lake, 40 per cent of which has been completed,” he said.

Ramesh said the next phase would take up Rs 800 crore that will be used not only to provided land to the Dal dwellers but “it will be a complete resettlement which will involve both land and houses granted to the Dal dwellers”.

Flanked by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Minister for Forest and Environment, Mian Altaf Ahmad, he said: “I and the chief minister have agreed on this issue. We will not only offer land for relocation but houses too would be made available for the 10,000 families that make the Dal dwellers.”

He said the State government was, in this regard, making a proposal while New Delhi was ready to offer assistance of Rs 800 crore for this phase and “once I fly to Delhi I will take this issue with the prime minister and the Planning Commission”.

Ramesh said: “Besides the 13th Finance Commission will visit the State very soon, I will also seek financial assistance from it for the restoration of the lake,” Ramesh said.

He said the entire process will take two years to complete while New Delhi was planning to buy heavy duty water de-weeding equipments from Finland.

“Besides three more sewerage Transport Plants (STPs) will be installed in the lake,” he added.

Ramesh informed that the State government had identified almost 7000 kanal of land, which would be the new home of Dal dwellers.

Ramesh, who arrived here on June 21, visited the Dal, Nigeen, Khushalsar, Anchar, Manasbal and Wullar lakes and his visit involved reviewing of the projects under execution for the conservation of water bodies in the state.

For the restoration and protection of one of Asia’s largest fresh water lake, Wullar, the union environment minister informed that Rs 386 crore had been proposed and plans submitted before the Government of India. “I promise that I will put my weight behind the project and get it approved for the Wullar lake restoration. I would love to champion the restoration of Wullar lake which is three times than Dal Lake and has strategic importance,” he said.

He said another project which New Delhi would initiate on River Jehlum would involve sewerage plants at Islamabad, Srinagar and Sopore.

“And the estimation cost on this project will be around Rs 250 crore,” he said.

Ramesh also asked the CM to provide a Detailed Project Report which would pave way to clean and beautify the river on the pattern of river Ganga and Yamuna.

“Once the State government submits DPR, we will pursue the issue which will see River Jehlum being cleaned on the pattern of River Ganga and Yamuna,” Ramesh said.

The union environment minister also informed that Japan's International Cooperation Agency, the second largest organisation of aid to development in the world behind the World Bank, has offered Rs 600 crore for the forest management of the State which is pending with New Delhi for the past 7 years. “I will ask the government to release that money.”

The union minister said he would also take up with the Union Finance Ministry the issue of funding of World Bank projects for integrated watershed development programs.

Keen to exploit an amount of nearly Rs 11,000 crore garnered under afforestation fund, Ramesh said the funds collected by the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority, a body appointed by the Environment Ministry on the direction of Supreme Court had been released which include Rs 181 crore deposited in the name of Jammu and Kashmir State.

“This money is collected from states for projects that divert forestland to non-forest use and your share is Rs 181 crore in it. All this money will be made available to the state government very soon,” he explained.

He also announced separate projects for the safety and protection of endangered animals which include Snow Leopard and Hangul.

“The projects will work the way ‘Tiger project’ does,” he said.

On the fast retreat of Himalayan glaciers and possible scarcity of water in future, he said the process was being monitored through satellites and “we are soon going to organize a national level seminar in September in which suggestions from State experts will also be taken”.

On whether there was any monitoring body that would review the Dal lake project, he informed that a team from IIT Roorkee had prepared the DPR 9 years ago for the restoration of Dal lake and added that they would keep on reviewing the developmental works of this project.

“I also want Pollution Control Board to make public its reports that it submits to government after every quarter,” he said.

Meanwhile in his brief address, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the government was exploring an extensive program to upgrade degraded forests.

“A large portion of our forest area is degraded. We are looking for ways and means to implement a project for upgradation of degraded forests,” he informed.

Minister for Forest and Environment, Mian Altaf Ahmad informed that there was an immediate need of assistance which would help restore forest lands that are constantly degrading.

Giving figures, he said: “Forty nine per cent of the forest land of the state excluding Ladakh stands degraded while 10 to 12 per cent has been encroached.”

(Rising Kashmir)

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