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.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dying Dal - Victim of Brazen Mismanagement

Mohammad Kundangar blames it all on sheer mismanagement

(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.)

Dal Crisis

The article captioned ‘Dal Lake -Breathing its Last’ in GK’s publication dated 13 November 2009 by Dr Sabah Ul Solim (Scientist LAWDA) speaks volumes about the malfunctioning of LAWDA and their helplessness in managing the Dal lake. The circumstantial evidences reveal that as usual whenever, there are certain crises in LAWDA they push forward their scientists in the forefront and remain hiding behind the scene. What one can infer from the article is that the Dal Lake is facing the crisis due to water abstraction and use scenarios. The LAWDA helplessly avoiding their legitimate responsibility are seeking help from the people by asking, “CAN ANY BODY SAVE IT?”

One fails to understand that there are two full-fledged wings of civil engineering departments with battery of skilled engineers and it was their basic job to calculate the annual water budget of the lake on the basis of daily recorded water discharges and then allow PHE department to harness the raw waters of Dal lake. Instead the engineers of LAWDA are busy in floating tenders for beautification of NFR road and other engineering works; rightly so because the politicians have directed them to do it on fast track or face the wrath which is evident by recent bizarre advertisement with beautiful faces of two politicians appearing in the local dailies where under the custodians of the lake wanted to convey the masses that ski scooters, motor boats etc are being purchased for restoring the pristine glory of the lake. Remember regattas or ‘360’ like gimmicks cannot anyway help in conservation of lake. It is action and effective remedial scientific measures within the periphery and lake itself which can help the lake restoration.

The article refers the condition similar to 1998 which is not true at all. During 1998 the water crisis for the Dal Lake was due to prevailing draught conditions for consecutive three years when Telbal Nallah had recorded zero discharge during the summer months but in the present case the snowfall was as usual if not heavy. It was in 1998 that myself along with other scientists had surveyed the lake catchment and identified about seventy one (71) freshwater springs in the immediate catchment of Dal Lake and suggested to divert all the waters of these freshwater springs to Dal lake, of course assessing their physic-chemical and biological characteristics. This was purposely done to increase the water budgets of the lake but unfortunately the executing agencies of LAWDA in the name of treating and cleansing of these springs exhausted all the allocated funds just treating hardly two or three springs at Habak site and thwart the entire scheme. Had waters of these freshwater springs diverted to the lake the present water crisis would not have been there and one would not have called a spade a spade.

The article directs towards the scarcity of water in Dal Lake and wrongly attributed to climate change and drought. Acknowledging this fact that lakes are good sentinels of climate change because they are sensitive to environmental changes like water level (which is a good indicator of climate change) because it reflects the dynamic balance between water input (precipitation, runoff) and water loss (evaporation) in non-regulated lakes (Adrian et al, 2009) and thus cannot hold good to Dal Lake whose hydrology is largely anthropogenically controlled, and thus its climate-related responses are influenced by other factors. Therefore, the present crisis is clearly a problem of Lake Management.

I have been given to understand that the present chief executive of LAWDA is a student of management studies and if he is not able to manage the lake particularly in terms of water budgeting-Water distribution-diversion of spring waters, who else could do it?

The consultants of Roorkee or the so called experts and advisors of LAWDA --- certainly not.

Lastly LAWDA should have focused on perpetual existence of the deadly MICROCYSTIS bloom in the Nishat basin of Dal lake and the consequences of supplying such infested waters to the consumers for drinking purposes. They must be also well acquainted with the quality of water at Pokhribal and Nishat particularly during stagnation and should have cautioned PHE Deptt. about the negative impacts of such contaminated waters especially when PHE people do not have proper treatment methods to do away with Phosphates and Nitrates. If one goes by LAWDA myth that the so called FAB based STPS are working effectively then the treated waters discharged into the lake should not be a worrying factor.

Suggestive measures to overcome water crisis:

i) Concentrate on watersheds and micro watersheds in the catchment with particular reference to Dhara, Dhnaihama, Dachigam and Zethyar
ii) Divert waters of natural freshwater springs lying in the immediate catchment of Dal lake
iii) Identify chocked springs within the lake body and their reclamation
iv) Measure snow to forecast water supplies after snow surveys coupled with runoff forecasts
v) Check seepages, illegal diversion of feeding streams and inflow channels

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