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, October 15, 2009

A Tribute to a Kashmiri Wetland Master

Mohammad recalls the life and times of a great environmentalist named Dr. Chaman Lal Trisal

(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 left the Ministry in 1996 to establish the Wetlands International – South Asia office in New Delhi. In 1997, he launched his first major initiative in north east with the support of India Canada Environment Facility. The project implementation lasted for more than 7 years and was an ambitious programme for conservation of Loktak Lake, with focus on collection of scientific data on various wetland functions and ecological processes and building capacity at multiple levels for lake management. He travelled far and wide into the state despite civil unrest, worked extensively with communities and became the voice of the numerous villages which had faced the implication of lake degradation. He always challenged established scientific knowledge and urged scientists to test and enrich their understanding by dealing with real world situations, in particular by internalizing traditional knowledge and natural resource management practices. Of particular mention is one workshop on management of lake vegetation organized in 2002 in Imphal which was attended by several senior scientists from entire country. To their surprise, he asked all community leaders to take the centre-stage and express their opinions of lake management. The attending scientists were given the task of decoding the community anecdotal knowledge into management practices. No wonder, the recommendations set a new direction to the perspective of management of Loktak Lake vegetation. It is to his credit that Loktak Development Authority transformed from an engineering organization to an organization capable of implementing integrated wetland management initiative. He particularly focused on role of water in wetland management, and designed initiatives aimed at supporting integration of wetlands into river basin management. It was this recognition that was behind the invitation by Ramsar Convention Secretariat to present the guidelines for integrating wetlands into river basin management in the Conference of Parties Meeting held in Costa Rica in 1999.

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).


msaleemir said...


Tthis is saleem, a Ph.D. scholar from DSE, university of Delhi. I am working on the land-use and land-cover change in Kashmir valley and for this one of the classification categories is "wetlands". Can your goodself please give me the names of all nine wetlands that are there in Kashmir valley.
Thanking in anticipation.

With regards,
saleem mir

msaleemir said...

I appreciate your effort to sensitise people about the wetlands-the lungs of planet.

Saleem Mir
Delhi School of Economics,
University of Delhi