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.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Environmental Blowback Affects Heritage and Tourist Trade

Houseboat owners can not be faulted for their feelings today, but the question that begs an answer is why did they allow a slow but steady ecological destruction of Kashmir's pristine waters and lakes?

Kashmir Fast Losing the Houseboat Heritage: HOA

Srinagar: The Valley houseboat owners Wednesday appealed to government to take necessary steps to protect the houseboats which according to them were facing decay.

Dozens of houseboat owners who had gathered under the aegis of Houseboat Owners Association (HOA) in the premises of the tourism department here to draw government attention to what they said the pathetic condition of houseboats, said the government needed to take immediate steps to prevent their further decay.

Addressing the gathering chairman HOA Manzoor Ahmad Wangoo said the houseboat constituted an important part of Kashmir heritage that needed conservation.

He said most houseboats needed renovation and the government must provide the timber on subsidy for it. “The forest ministry has agreed to provide us timber and the tourism ministry is ready to bear its cost on our behalf. But the project is yet to be finalized and we appeal to the government to expedite the process in this behalf,” he said, adding that the number of houseboats in Kashmir had come down drastically over the years. Most houseboat owners, he said, were indebted to various banks. “The government must waive off their debts,” he demanded.

“In this regard we had sent a deputation to the state government and they called a meeting to consider our demand. Government should take up the matter with centre and waive off the loans of the houseboat owners,” he said.

The chairman said it was unfortunate that a thirty year old counter allotted to the HSBA has been snatched from it to give it to a private tour operator by the Airports Authority of India.

“Around 50 thousand people comprising families of houseboat owners would be affected by the action of the AAI,” he said. He, however, expressed gratitude to state government for taking up the matter with the centre. “State government has accepted that our business depends heavily on the counter and it has assured us that it will be given back to us.”

He thanked Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA)and Tourism Department for “their support to set up a dockyard in the Dal Lake.”

“It will help in reducing the pollution of Dal Lake,” he said, while appealing the LAWDA to cooperate with the houseboat owners in the rehabilitation programme.

“We are also thankful to tourism department for marketing the Kashmir as a tourist destination which has helped us in making bookings. Most houseboats have been booked up to April,” he added.

(Greater Kashmir)

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