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.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Climate Change is a Serious Concern on Both Sides of the LOC

Zafar discusses the impact of climate change in Azad Kashmir

(Mr. Zafar Iqbal, 32, was born in village Tarar, Rawalakot, in the Poonch district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He did his early schooling in a private school, matriculating through examinations conducted by the Mirpur Educational Board, and completed his higher secondary education from the Government Degree College in Rawalakot. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Rawalakot campus), and his M.A. in Mass Communication from the Punjab University in Pakistan. He received international scholarships to attend the International Summer School at the University of Oslo in 2005 receiving a Graduate Diploma in Media Studies, and the Nottingham Trent University, U.K., in 2006-2008 receiving M.A. in Media & Globalization. Mr. Iqbal has been a journalist working in the print and TV media since 1999 and is very active in human rights, earthquake relief and rehabilitation especially involving women and children, and inter-faith harmony. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Press for Peace (PFP) and the Founder-President of the Environmental Journalists Forum, both based in Muzaffarabad. Mr. Iqbal has been invited to numerous national and international seminars and workshops related to human development.)

Climate Change Hits Natural Paradise of Kashmir

The tangible impacts of climate change are now witnessed even in those areas of South Asian region which are considered as habitat of ecosystem due to the abundance of natural resources. Like other areas of world, the weather pattern in Kashmir has changed so much so that people are experiencing in chilly and dry winter without rains and snowfall.

People paid special prayers for rain after a spell of dry and harsh weather conditions prevailing in the region since many months. People in Pakistan part of Kashmir on Wednesday offered Namaz e Istaska in small and big towns and remote areas. Prime Minster of Pakistani Azad Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Haider has appealed people to offer particular prayers for the end of harshly dry weather. Hundreds of residents, including the Prime Minister and his cabinet members of government of Pakistani controlled Kashmir, offered Namaz e Istakska in an open ground in the capital city, Muzaffarabad.

In Islam Namaz e Istaska (Pray for rain) is a special kind of prayer which is performed in the time of drought, in order to seek relief from God, so that God may send rain. Similar rituals were paid in other cities where parched citizens pray for rain and snowfall.

In various towns and cities in Pakistan and its administrated Kashmir arid weather has affected badly local population because of water scarcity in the region as most of the water sources have dried up and people are struggling to access for drinking water. Women have to walk for miles to bring water as all springs, streams, wells and other natural water sources have dried up where as water level in rivers, mini rivers and lakes are also shrinking.

In Azad Jammu and Kashmir most of the population rely for natural water sources, including rivers, springs and wells. According to World Bank More than 60 percent of the population still has no direct access to water supply. A 1998 census shows that only 34.58 percent of the rural population has access to piped water supply (house connection) while more than 65 percent fetch water from communal sources.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Azad Kashmir Government under a project worth Rs. 493 million are jointly working to restore rural water supply system and improve the sanitation in the region.

The majority of water supply and sanitation systems in AJK (both rural and urban) were badly damaged by October 8, 2005 earthquakes. According to the Governments of AJK, a total of 1641 water supply schemes and sanitation system, were damaged and need to be rehabilitated or reconstructed.

The dry weather has also affected areas which are famous for torrentional rains and snowfall in winter, howevever, this year wave of dry weather is not finished even after beginning of one month of winter. The intensity of the dryness has even been witnessed on high mountainous areas which used to be covered with many feet high snow in the beginning of autumn in the past.

Most of the cities and towns and remote hilly areas are experiencing dry spell of weather. Rawalakot is tourist resort and have a beautiful lake in Banjosa, which during the recent years have attracted a large number of visitors form Pakistani cities like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi etc. Especially a large influx of visitors has been observed in the Rwalakot in summer and winter seasons after the military operation in Swat and other areas in Northern Pakistan which used to be tourist resorts in the past. The peaks of Lass Danna, Toli Peer, and Ganga Choti in Bagh District which are located at more than 7000-8000 feet over the altitude are still waiting for snowfall.

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