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 27, 2009

Hidden Treasures of Kashmir

Akhtar and Aijaz explore the hidden beauty of Kashmir valley

(Mr. Akhtar H. Malik, 31, was born in Khag,Budgam district. He attended the Government Higher Secondary School in Khag, and completed his B.Sc. from the Amar Singh College in Srinagar. He has a Master's Degree in Botany from the University of Kashmir, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Taxonomy at the university. His reserach specialization is in Taxonomy and Biodiversity, and is the Curator at the Centre for Plant Taxonomy, University of Kashmir.

Mr. Aijaz Hassan Ganie, 32, was born in Anantnag. He graduated from the Gandhi Memorial College in Jammu, and completed his M.Sc. from the University of Jammu. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Cytogenetics and Reproductive Biology from the Department of Biology of the University of Kashmir.)

Lidder Valley: The real beauty is here

The Lidder valley forms the north-eastern part of Kashmir. The word 'Lidder' is derived from lambo-dari which means a goddess 'long-bellied'. The main stream of Lidder receives a number of tributaries. The first mountain torrent arises from Shisheram Nag and carving a deep gorge round the Pisu Hill, flows past Thanin or Tsandanwari, at Tsandanwari another tributary rising from Astan Marg- a stream of pure water mainly from springs-joins it on the right. Near Pahalgam, a torrent rising from the snout of Kolahoi glacier, receives a tributary from the Sona Sar lake near the Kolahoi valley, the water from the Tar Sar lake joins it on the right at Lidderwat, and a stream from Katri Nag near Aru, enters it, the whole volume of water, swelling and flowing with rapidity to join the stream flowing from Tsandanwari side at Pahalgam and form the famous Lidder Nala. The stream arising from the Kolahoi glacier passes through Lidderwat which means Lambodarwat (Lambodar's stone).

The Lidder irrigates a large rich tract of alluvial soil and for miles from either of its banks one can see a green sea of rice-fields during the summer. The aqueducts full of glacial water infuse life everywhere and we heard the rush and flow of water all along. A canal has been constructed at Lidder near Ganishpor to water the Mattan Weder (plateau). This canal is called Shah Kol, built in the reign of Zain-ul-Abideen (Bada Shah), one of the greatest kings of Kashmir.

We recently visited Lidder valley in connection with biodiversity characterization of the area under the banner of a project sponsored by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). We started our journey from “Beetab Valley” located on the right side of Pahalgam - Tsandanwari road. The valley has been named after a famous and popular Hindi movie "Betab" whose major part was shot here. The valley was in its natural condition when we visited this place along with other hostel mates of GKRS hostel University of Kashmir two years before, but the beauty of the valley has been tarnished by the Government at the cost of development by constructing concrete roads within and around the valley. Most unfortunate is the construction of concrete and masonry “Bunds” along the banks of stream which hitherto used to give a charming and heavenly look without caring for the loss of its natural beauty and biodiversity. People whether local or foreigner visit such places to see the Nature’s creation and beauty but not the man-made roads and buildings.

Travelling ahead we surveyed the area from Tsandanwari to Pisutop; the area is rich in biodiversity and gifted with natural beauty. Here we saw ponywalas, the hard working class of our society, working day and night for their livelihood. The Amarnath Yatris should be thankful to them for the services they render in making the yatra of old and ailing people possible even under harsh weather conditions. We returned to Pahalgam late in the evening and next day we went to Aru early in the morning. From Aru we started at 10:00 am on foot to cover 12 kilometer distance of hilly track to reach Lidderwath. On the way we saw lofty mountains, forests around milky Lidder. We were so thrilled that one of our team members told us that he wanted to stay there forever as it was really a paradise on earth.

On the way we could see only foreigners and nomads. We asked one of the foreigners from France that what did he think about Kashmir? He told us that if there was any beautiful place on earth it was Kashmir. These tourists were going to see the Lidderwath valley, Kolhoi glacier, Tarsar, Marsar lakes and the meadows. It is pertinent to mention that Kolhoi glacier is the highest glacier (5500 meters above sea level), and is about 18 kilometers from the Aru. While Tarsar and Marsar lakes are alpine lakes.

On the way we were surprised to see the rich biodiversity of plants like Cobra plant (Arisaima jacquemontia), Banwangun (Podophyllum hexandrum), Bunafsha (Viola odorata),Wild Strawberry (Fragaria nubicola), Kulmach (Viburnum grandiflorum), Kahzabhan (Arnebia benthami), Poodina (Mentha longifolia), Abuj (Rumex nepalensis),Tethven (Artemisia absinthium), Jawend (Thymus linearis), Hand posh (Cichorium intybus), Jan-e-Adam (Ajuga bracteosa) Pamb hak (Rheum emoid), Kuth (Saussurea costus,), Aashud (Geranium nepalensis), Nepeta cataria, Kalvuth (Prunella vulgaris), Zakmehahaat (Bergenia stracheyi), Hapth-phal (Phytolacca acinosa), Primula denticulata, Aquilegia fragrans, Dioscorea deltoidea, Iris ensata, Barr (Ziziphus jujuba) etc. This richness could obviously be attributed to sufficient forest cover and less anthropogenic interference. We saw huge chunk of old trees lying scattered on both sides of river as well as in the valley. Unfortunately we don’t have an active and vigilant forest department to lift this fallen wealth so that it could be supplied to timber depots for sale to the needy ones rather than to keep it there for decay. Such practices could also lessen the pressure for the demand of the timber and will also check smuggling from the easily accessible areas to greater extent.

We reached our destination place i.e., Lidderwath valley at 2:00 pm; it was so pleasant here that our tiredness vanished just within a few seconds. There were few tents in which foreigners were camping and some Gujjar and Bakerwals were rearing their cattle. On the left side of the valley one can see the Kolhoi glacier which is 6 Km from Lidderwath while on right side there is gorge and a small mountain, crossing this one can reach the Tarsar and Marsar lakes but due to the shortage of time we couldn’t manage to go there. The people who were returning from these twin lakes narrated their beauty. According to them the water of these lakes is bluish and crystal clear and nature has decorated the sides of the lakes with marble like sheets. They added that the area is so beautiful that one wants to live there forever and the air is so fresh that even an ailing person can recover within seconds.

On seeing our team Gujjar boys rushed towards us and invited us for cup of tea; we accepted their offer and had hot sips of Namkeen tea. On way to their muddy cottage we had to cross a foot bridge over Lidder made up of logs of wood. The bridge is in a bad condition and would prove fatal if not repaired immediately. When we enquired from these people whether their children go to school or not? They replied in affirmation that government has arranged mobile schools for them. Every one among us appreciated the efforts of the government in this direction. In connection with our study we also visited some far flung areas of Pahalgam, we visited the village of Nagham (Haptnar), and the area is also rich in plant wealth. While doing our field work in the nearby forest, a teacher accompanied by a few Gujjars requested us to visit their school.

After completing our field work, we went to the school and interacted with the students and the teacher. The school is reported to have been established in 1982 as a primary school and latter upgraded to Middle level in 2007. The total enrollment of the school is 137 with only two teachers. At present the school does not have its own building but is housed in a rented building which is without window panes and matting. For two teachers it is simply impossible to run all the eight classes. Due to lack of facilities and shortage of teaching staff, the future of these innocents seems to be in doldrums .This is the story of one of the school in this modern era and there are so many such schools in our valley.

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