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, January 21, 2010

Wither Jehlum?

An editorial in the Kashmir Images laments about a dying river

Save Jehlum

What has happened to the beautification project concerning the River Jehlum, the life-line of Kashmir Valley. With prolonged dry spell having pushed the water level in the river to an all-time low, the pathetic plight of the river is just there for everybody to see. If the amount of filth and garbage that has accumulated in its bed over the years is taken as an indicator, then it goes without saying that it has been turned into a huge sever with the sewerage of entire city somehow finding its way into this river.

Historical accounts of Kashmir are replete with the mention of this river as for its importance in the socio-economic profile of the place and its people is concerned. For instance, the Srinagar city and other major towns thrive on the banks of this river to comprise a unique human geography here. The importance of Jehlum to the Valley’s physical geography too has been very profound. No wonder that this river finds a place of pride in history as well as the Kashmir’s folklore, sometimes as Jehlum while at other places as ‘Vyeth’ or ‘Vitasta’. Masjids, shrines and temples on its banks only add to the reverence this river has attracted from the local population since times immemorial.

However, today the situation is quite different as the river is no longer what it has been or what it should have been. Instead, both the people as well as the governmental agencies have, owing to their criminal carelessness, relegated this river to a massive drain to accommodate all kinds of filth and dirt. Not only does the sewerage from Srinagar city as well as other towns empty into this river; major portion of garbage too is dumped into it. As if this was not enough, the people who erected new shopping malls and other commercial complexes in place of the old decrepit residential houses in parts of city along it banks also used the river bosom as a landfill site to dump old construction material in it. And the irony has been that all this happened and is happening even today not only under the nose of, but also with the active connivance of the civic authorities.

Complicating the problems for the already ailing river has been the accumulation of silt in its bed. While until 1986, dredging the river to take out sand and silt was a regular feature from Khadanyar onwards in Baramulla district, the practice was stopped for some unknown reasons. Even though there existed a full-fledged Flood Mechanical Division in Baramulla for the purpose, but both the men and machinery of the said division has been lying idle since. What sounds really intriguing is the fact that the dredging of river, despite being a self-financing venture in the sense that the sand and silt taken out not only met the cost of dredging but also earned some profits for the government, was stopped all of a sudden.

Couple of years back, state government embarked on a massive project to beautify Jehlum and actually did some cosmetic activities here and there by giving facelift to a portion of its banks between Zero bridge and Second (Budshah) bridge. Afterwards nothing was heard or seen of the so-called beautification project. Was it shelved with the change in state’s ruling dispensation? Whatever the reason, the miserable condition of the river that is visible now with this major river having almost dried up, is calling for some action. Saving this river system is not only important for the ecosystem of the Valley but also for its cultural legacy. Without Jehlum Kashmir will no longer be Kashmir.

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