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.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Going Native With the Bloom

Iqbal requests Kashmiris not to overlook indigenous plants

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numismatics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. He is employed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Let not the local varieties of plants perish

The plantation season has arrived; this is the time when our farmers plant trees on vacant lands in their farms. Every year thousands of trees are planted in the Kashmeri lands with Zamindars, formers and forest departments getting engaged in the plantation process at the beginning of ‘Saunuth’ (Spring) which is reckoned from the month of Zaeth (The first month of Spring season) of the local calendar.

There is but a drift in proceeding towards plantation as, now-a-days, people prefer plants that have a quick growth and also require less hardwork compared to the traditional trees that were planted some years ago.

It is a common observation and one can argue that the trend has become lucrative in view of the fast growth of some kind of trees when compared to the trees that were a peculiar feature of Kashmir lands. It can also be said that plants that have a commercial value find more well wishers among Kashmiri people now-a-days, while the traditional practices and varieties are being ignored.

The trend is never bad since the people of the valley too need to enrich and accelerate forest economy and improve our plantation potential. But the alarming speed with which the local variety of trees is being ignored is what causes a concern for one and all.

The farmers and Zamindars have been making better usage of their forms and prefer to cultivate such produces which have a quick growth and better yield. They have been transforming their agricultural lands into orchards, where fruits are grown. Knowing that fruits have a commendable market in and outside the valley, this trend is catching up far more quickly than even thought about. Similarly people of the valley have also shifted their focus towards commercial plantation and tree culture in the various forest lands scattered all around the valley and the numerous nurseries mostly in the villages and in the peripheries.

The plant growers prefer such variety of seeds and plants in their forms, which have a quick growth. They cultivate such forest nurseries in their forms, which are fast in growth and better produce as well as demand while traditional plants with slow growth are being discouraged.

While people have shifted their preferences towards foreign seeds and plantations, various government sectors including agriculture and forests have also been encouraging the use of experimental seeds that reach here from across the world. For this purpose Rousi (Russian) and Bulgarian varieties of Poplar are being favored for the reason that these have 'most fast growth when compared with the locals varieties of Popular. Fortunately such, varieties of foreign origin trees have also found hospitable weather and soil conditions here in the valley and is grown here in large numbers.

No doubt it has been a successful initiative towards protecting environment and meeting the growing consumption of wood, besides a very significant step towards protecting forest degradation. But the present trend of encouraging foreign varieties of trees has affected the local tree culture of the land. The valley is fast loosing its centuries’ old local varieties. Their propagation has already collapsed while the standing ones’ are also left without care.

In this context mention may be made of local varieties of Popular called "Kashur Phras." The minister, as we might call it, of the kingly plane trees which grows great in height and girth was once very popular in Kashmir. It grew at all elevations from 5000 to 7500 feet and was brought into all types of use. There were several varieties of this tree which were cultivated here in the valley including the most beautiful of them all, the Kabuli variety. This variety was most famous and elegant with its white bark and silvery leaves it gave a fine look and was considered suitable for the local environment. It was grown more commonly in rural areas and believed to have been introduced here by later Mughal or early' Durani Shah's. Unfortunately these varieties of the popular tree have almost disappeared from valley lands and rarely are found standing anywhere.

One another favorite tree o£ Kashmir is called Brenn (Elm) which usually grows at all elevation up to 9,000 feet. Like Kashmir pharas it also attains a great height and girth and is also used for wood and constructions. It has also remained saints tree in Kashmir, many such trees are still regarded in great esteem and believed to have been planted by some Sofi saints of Kashmir. The Hindus also- regard this tree as sacred to Ganpati, one of the Hindu deities. Although still quite a number of trees of Elm are seen standing on several valley lands, but no attention is being paid on its positive propagation.

Bremiji, the centuries old tree of the valley was usually grown in graveyards and in the vicinity of shrines. It has a slow but natural growth to the extent of a magnificent tree.

Few specimen of the tree are still seen in olden Mazar's (Graveyards) of the valley. The historical graveyards of Malkh'a, Mazari Qalan, Mazari Sulateen exhibit a few rare magnificent Breimji trees.

The local trees no doubt have a slow growth and cannot withstand the fast growing phenomenon. However, their survival is also necessary for the local environment. The plant growers and the government agencies involved in plantation should not forget the local trees altogether but shall also provide-some space to local plants in their forms, and nurseries.

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