(Dr. Mohammad Rashid-ud-din Kundangar, 62, was born in Srinagar. He completed his Masters degree in Botany, and Doctoral/Postdoctoral degree in Hydrobiology through the University of Kashmir. He served as a lecturer in Botany and Head of the Hydrobiology Research laboratory or about 25 years. Prof. Kundangar has about hundred research publications to his credit and has been actively involved in environmental studies with special reference to aquatic resources of the J&K State. He is the approved research guide of University of Kashmir, Barkatullah University, Bhopal, University of Roorkee and has supervised a number of M Phil candidates and PhD scholars. He has been the Chief Investigator of various state and centrally sponsored minor and major research projects. He was a founder Director Research & Development, J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, and preceding retirement from the government service served as Principal of the Degree College. Dr Kundangar is the author of a number of books and is the Dean of Academics and the Head of the Department of Lake Sciences and Water Management in the SSM College of Engineering, the only privately run engineering institute in the valley. Dr Kundangar has been the consultant ecologist for various J&K government departments and a member of the Wetland Committee set up by Government of India. He has attended number of National and International conferences and toured various Asian and European countries.)
A Tribute to Wetland Master
The term “wetland” is defined in the text of the Convention on the Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention).That is, wetlands are “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.”Wetlands support a disproportionately large part of the human population. The Wetlands serve as Kidneys of the planet and are crucial for the wellbeing and survival of humankind and living beings.
Freshwater resources need to be managed with ecological constraints and human needs in mind. Its freshwater strategy calls for a holistic approach, which includes conservation of catchment and watershed areas as well as tackling issues such as pollution and wasteful consumption. This art of understanding and managing of wetlands in India and even in our valley of Kashmir was masterized by none else than a Kashmiri Wetland Expert known as Dr. Chaman.Lal Trisal.
Dr. Trisal in his Comprehensive Management Action Plan for Wular Lake in the capacity of Director Wetlands International-South Asia and the team leader of the report writes, “The Comprehensive Management Action Plan is based on evaluation of Ecological and socio-economic features of Wular and associated wetlands within Jhelum River Basin. A critical analysis of these features provides the rationale for identification of objectives including the factors governing these features. Steps are critical to understanding of the basic characteristic of Lake Ecosystem and its dynamics within river basin. Adapting this approach helps to undertake measures for development of specific action plan for sustainable management which can be monitored through indicators sensitive to change in the ecosystem”. He further adds that the Action Plan aims at mainstreaming of Wetlands of Kashmir valley in the National Developmental Planning process. Emphasis has been laid on improving livelihood of socially and economically weaker sections of the society which are entirely dependant on Wetlands for their livelihoods. The Action plan has a special focus on poverty reduction through sustainable resource development and is in line with the approach followed by Planning Commission in the 10th Five Year Plan.
Dr.Trisal though less known in the valley but was indeed one of the leading wetland experts of national and international repute. Four decades ago, a simple and docile village boy from Trisal Pulwama joined S.P.College and became my classmate and soon after a close friend. He was popularly called as “CHAMANI-TRISAL”. We passed B. Sc. together and again remained classmates in the Post graduate Department of Botany of University of Kashmir. Both of us choose the Aquatic Ecology for our Ph. D. Programme but this time our Supervisors were different. During my course of PhD. Programme I, got appointed as Lecturer in Botany and had to leave the University as a full time scholar and my association with my fellow colleagues and with Trisal got discontinued. Nothing was heard about him and it was after a gap of fifteen years, Dr.Trisal met me in S.P.College where he had come in connection with the B.ED exam of his wife. I was heading the Hydrobiology Research Lab and it was now known to me that he happens to be one of the Directors in the Ministry of Environment and Forests Govt. of India and looking after Wetlands Conservation in India. It was this meeting with him and subsequent correspondence followed by his and his fellow colleague and friend, yet another Kashmiri wetland expert Dr. Sidarath Kaul’s active support which gave a real boost to Hydrobiology Lab at S.P.College and in fact brought it due recognition at National and International level. Flow of funds besides procurement of valuable instruments accelerated the research activities of the lab. and dozens of scholars were able to have their Mphil and PhD. degrees.
It was the same duo (“Chunu-Munu”) who paved the way for putting the proposal of Dal lake Conservation Programme in the agenda of National Lakes Conservation Programme of Govt. of India and suggested for having an independent Lake Authority for Dal Lake, a pre-requisite criterion for financial assistance.
By this time, Dr.Trisal had already established his vision by playing a crucial role in shaping of the National Wetland Programme. He represented India in the Ramsar Convention and was nominated to its first Scientific and Technical Review Panel. He contributed immensely to India’s position in all Conference of Parties Meeting.
Dr. Trisal in parallel then focused on Chilika Lake, wherein he had played a pivotal role in preventing shrimp aquaculture during his tenure in the Ministry. He initiated a systematic hydro-biological monitoring which ultimately laid the foundation of first environment flows initiative in India. His ability to transform the myriad information of ecological processes into concrete management actions made him a champion of systematic wetland management. Several state governments called on his expertise to formulate management plans. From the period 2004 till 2009, he wrote management plans for Loktak Lake (Manipur), Rudrasagar Lake (Tripura), Kolleru Lake (Andhra Pradesh), East Kolkata Wetlands (West Bengal), Vembanad Kol Wetlands (Kerala), and Wular Lake (J&K).
His extensive knowledge on the high altitude systems made him an avid supporter of their priority consideration in conservation and management programmes. He played a crucial role in initiating a dialogue between Himalayan countries – India, China, Bhutan and Nepal. He always pressed for a regional action to conserve the high altitude wetlands, more importantly as an adaptation to climate change. His efforts yielded the Delhi Declaration on conservation of Himalayan wetlands endorsed by four countries in February 2008. When he breathed his last on 10th of September 2009, he was reportedly working on a book on wetlands and climate change adaptation primarily focused on high altitude systems.
Dr. Trisal’s death is not only my personal loss but a great loss to the Nation and to the wetland lovers and scientists. I have lost a friend with whom I had association of forty long years and I hold him the champion of Wetland Conservation. Across the globe where as people mourn your death, we in your native land mourn both for you and for the wetlands which are being plundered mercilessly both at govt level and through private agencies. Wetlands of your time viz; around Bemina, Chandmari, Mirgund, Narkara, Hokera Baghi-Arath have gone for ever and rest are on the verge of extinction. One can find new established colonies with newly coined names.
So let God rest your soul in peace and give courage to the bereaved family particularly to Sudesh (wife) Deepshikha, Priya and Monal (daughters).