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, July 13, 2009

Their Home is as Important as Yours

Aamir suggests that conflict between human and wildlife population is emerging as a major conservation issue worldwide

(Mr. Aamir Bin Masood, 28, was born and raised in Srinagar. He graduated from the Sri Partap College, Srinagar, and pursued his Master's degree in Environmental Science from the University of Kashmir. He also completed a post graduate diploma in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems from the same university. He has authored a book titled, "Environmental Education," published by Navrang Publications in 2007. He has participated in many seminars and workshops and won many prizes and certificates. He currently works at the largest local bank in Kashmir.)

Managing Human - Wildlife Conflicts

One of the J&K’s most exquisite natural resources is its diverse wildlife. We have Leopard, Snow Leopard, Hangul, Brown Bear, Black Bear, Markhor, Ibex, Bharal, Serow, Chiru, Shapu, Chital, Wild Ass, etc. All these primarily represent the varied wildlife of the Himalayas. Unfortunately, leopards, snow leopards and bears are increasingly coming into conflict with the humans. The Human-Wildlife conflicts are increasing like anything in J&K. Leopards and bears have been on rampage in many areas of Jammu and Kashmir divisions, such as Kupwara, Tral, Zabarwan belt, Sopore, Banihal, Udhampur, Poonch, etc., whereas in case of Ladakh, it is the snow leopard which is increasingly coming into conflict with the herders. Of late, these incidents have been increasing across the length and breadth of the state. Many people have been killed and injured.

Conflicts between human and wildlife populations are emerging as a major conservation issue worldwide. Crop-raiders like monkeys, birds, etc. can diminish or destroy cash crops. Carnivores and larger crop-raiders (like bear) can also threaten the lives of both humans and livestock, and are often presumed to be a threat and shot on sight.

As human populations expand and natural habitats shrink, people and wild animals are increasingly coming into conflict over living space and food. The impacts are often huge. These animals, many of which are already threatened or endangered, are often killed in retaliation or to prevent future conflicts. Human-wildlife conflict is one of the main threats to the continued survival of many species and is also a significant threat to local human populations.

Many carnivore populations escaped extinction during the twentieth century as a result of legal protections, habitat restoration and changes in public attitudes. However, encounters between carnivores, livestock and humans are increasing in some areas, raising concerns about the costs of carnivore conservation.

Human-wildlife conflicts occur in both urban and rural areas and range from nuisance encounters to attacks on humans, pets and livestock. The villagers are more likely to encounter wildlife in their own neighborhood than while visiting a national park or a forest. As humans and wildlife try to share limited living space, conflicts can arise. But with patience and planning, most problems can be resolved humanely, or avoided altogether.

Wild animals were considered to be much wilder in the past, but this perception among the common masses changed as people became more and more educated. Recent increasing trend in the human-wildlife conflict in the valley has again tarnished the image of the wild animals, especially those of leopard and bear. Leopards and bears have been responsible for the killing of many people and livestock. These animals are justifying the fact of their being ferocious predators. But I don’t think these are to be blamed entirely for these wrong-doings. Somewhere we are also to be held responsible. Though there should not be any compromise as far as human lives are concerned, but having said that, the fact remains that the incidents can be prevented without endangering these animals too.

Let me now talk about the management practices, which local people need to adopt while encountering the wild animals.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, the humane approach to human-wildlife conflict is based on three general principles:

(1) Respect for the environment (2) Tolerance and understanding of the living beings, and (3) A willingness to resolve conflicts using non-lethal means.

Appreciating the natural environment we share with other living beings is one of the most important components of wildlife conflict resolution. Often the first and best defense is to let natural forces resolve the issue without human intervention. Human tolerance and understanding are also crucial, since many so-called wildlife problems arise out of our irrational fears. Non-lethal conflict resolution is an emerging concept in conflict management, which most people have only just begun to investigate and realize.

The following six-step evaluation will help you resolve wildlife conflicts safely and humanely. (1) Determine the problem—and consider whether it is a problem at all: Learning about the habits of your wild neighbors will help you decide what kind of a problem you can experience. (2) If there is a problem, collect information to better deal with the problem: It is necessary to positively identify the species involved, the extent of the damage, how long it's been happening, whether there are young animals present, and what can be done to resolve the issue in a humane and permanent way. (3) Assess the seriousness and extent of the problem: Important considerations involve safety or health concerns to people or livestock, likelihood of recurrence, and whether the damage appears to be seasonal or ongoing. (4) Take action, but only after all the facts have been collected: Taking action should be one of the last steps, and it should not necessarily have to involve killing animals. (5) Evaluation: Did your action resolve the problem or merely address the symptoms? Your solution should get at the underlying cause of the problem and be effective over the long-term. (6) Seek help: You may not be able to resolve the problem by yourself. Then the matter is immediately to be reported to the concerned authorities.

While most injured or orphaned wildlife are picked up by the authorities, it is important to realize that such human-animal interactions are sometimes unnecessary. Before deciding to intervene, the most important thing to do is patiently observe the animal in its surroundings and decide if it actually needs help. Many animals appear to be orphaned, but actually are not. Sometimes wild babies are not with their parents and spend some time alone, with the parent(s) nearby.

This was something about the humane-approach to solve the human-wildlife conflicts. But this will not solve the problem completely. Much more needs to be done at the governmental level to check and eliminate this problem. And, if solutions to conflicts are not adequate at the governmental level, local support for conservation also declines.

We humans often choose to forget that wildlife have rights too, and, like us, want to be left in peace to raise their young. Sometimes, because of our careless attitude too, conflicts may occur. When they do, it is usually the animals that lose out.

In conclusion, let me say, home is important. Whether it is a cabin, a mansion, a hollow log, a burrow, a den or a forest, home is cherished. It is something to be protected from outsiders, especially if it houses young family members. Homes and their locations are chosen by people and animals for much the same reasons – size, safety, and proximity to amenities such as good food sources. So let us remember it for the sake of co-existence.

No comments: