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, August 13, 2009

Dal Lake is Turning Into Real Estate

Arif says the Dal catchments are fast degrading


Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Unabated constructions, deforestation and other land use changes in the Dal catchments has affected the flow of water into the lake leading to manifold increase in influx of silt and pollutants into the water body.

Experts warn that in absence of sustained catchment preservation measures, the pollution levels of Dal would increase and drastically affect its eco-system.

With catchment area stretching to 337 sq kms, Dal functions as the central part of a large interconnected aquatic ecosystem in Kashmir valley. The lake is fed mainly by Marsar, a glacial oligotrophic alpine lake through two main sub-watersheds Dhara Danihama and Dachigam. However experts say the land use change in the lake catchments has increased pollution regimes of Dal.

A study conducted by Dr. Shakeel Ahmad Romshu, Associate Professor of the University of Kashmir’s Geo-Physics Department, states that there has been decrease in forest area in the Dal catchments due to increase in human settlements particularly from 1991 to 2001.

Romshu said the urbanization or built-up area in the lake’s catchment particularly from Harwan to Boulevard has increased from 9.24 sq Kms in 1992 to 23.9 sq Kms in 2009.

“It is a dangerous trend and if the government wants to save the catchment from further deterioration, it has to ban further constructions in the eco-fragile areas,” Romshu states.

The study states that the water class has been reduced from 14.24 to 12.69 km² in nine years showing a percent reduction of 0.52 percent.

“Dense forests also show reduction by 1.35 percent, which is 3.85 km² by area. This could be attributed to the anthropogenic activities which mainly include deforestation and excessive agriculture over the deforested areas. The 4.05 percent increase in the perennial plantation can be well attributed to the decrease in forest area.”

The study points out that the lake vegetation has been reduced from 13.51 to 6.21 km². This reduction is related to the increase in the perennial plantation over the lakes. Besides the built up area has increased from 2.08 to 3.53 km². It has led to drastic decrease in agriculture land.

Romshu states that due to alterations in land-cover in Dal catchment over the study years, the predicted flow has increased. He states increased impervious surface like barren, built-up and deforested area in 2001 increased the peak flow, compared to 1992.

This increase was about 22.23 percent in the total annual flow from 1992-2001 under changed land use and cover conditions.

“The reduction in the soil cover decreases infiltration and increases runoff, hence leading to increase in the water levels over the receiving body. Increased runoff also causes lake ecology problems due to excess sedimentation. Higher water levels indicate possibilities of severe disasters in the form of floods,” the study warns.

The study recommends that the watershed areas need to be prioritized for conservation to minimize the non-point sources of pollution.

The chairman of Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, Irfan Yaseen, acknowledged deterioration of Dal’s catchment, particularly Dara.

“Due to catchment degradation, Dal is receiving heavy influx of silt and nutrients. Our problem is compounded by coming up of residential colonies in the catchment,” he said.

He said the restoration of catchment was imperative for Dal conservation. “Besides lake conservation, we are simultaneously constructing check dams, retards and going for massive afforestation to restore the catchment. It is a mammoth task but we are committed to accomplish it,” he added.

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