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, March 28, 2010

Should Hangul be Allowed to go Extinct?

Mansoor gives a clarion call regarding saving the Hangul

(Dr. Mir M. Mansoor, 54, was born in Shopian. He completed his schooling from the M.L. Higher Secondary School in Shopian. He attended the Government Degree College in Anantnag, receiving his B.Sc. degree in Natural Sciences, and subsequently received a degree in Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry (BVSc & AH) from the Ranchi Veterinary College, Rajindrea Prasad University, Bihar. He has received mid-career post-graduate training in Advanced Wildlife Management (AWM) at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and a post-graduate diploma in Conservation Breeding & Management of Endangered Species (CBME)from the University of Kent at Centerbury, U.K. Dr. Mansoor is the Chief Wildlife Biologist (Veterinary) in the J&K State Wildlife Protection Department. He has received the "Bharat Jyoti" Award and the "Glory of India" Gold Medal and has 30 publications to his credit. In his leisure time, he enjoys nature photography, travel and browsing on internet.)

Lest we Lose it!

You are reading this article because it is all about a species which is having its roots deep in our history, culture and social life. We could have this argument about a black bear or a common leopard and the issues would have been identical, but the ability to get people's attention would be far lower.

Everywhere you look on this planet there are issues to be addressed and we have finite resources. So we do make really horrible choices. But nowadays, almost exclusively, when people work in conservation they focus on saving habitats, because there are many species that live in a narrowly defined habitat. If we don't destroy their habitat they will just continue in the same way as they have been for the thousands of years before.

I don't want the hangul, the designate state animal for Jammu and Kashmir, to die out. I want the species to stay alive but conservation, both nationally and globally, has a limited amount of resources, and I think we're going to have to make some hard and pragmatic choices.

The hard fact being that we have already left the Hangul to face the extinction because we have compromised on the animal’s habitat at every level. We spend millions and millions of rupees on developmental works, that too, within its very habitat and on the name of saving this species, knowing that the best thing we could have done with this money was to have effective habitat management with adequate protection measures. Without habitat, you've got nothing. So maybe if we took all the money we spend on hangul over the years and just bought its habitat with it, we might have done a better job and earned the required dividends in the shape of increased number of hangul and other species sharing its habitat.

Of course, it's easier to raise money for charismatic megafauna like hangul, which appeals to people's emotional side, and attract a lot of public attention. The species being emblematic of what I would call single-species conservation i.e. a focus on one animal as this approach began in the 1970s with Save the Tiger, Save the Panda, and so on, and it is now out of date.

Many among the conservationist community may stand up and say, "It's a flagship species. We're also conserving the forest, where there is a whole plethora of other things." And when that works, I'm not against it. But we have to accept that some species are stronger than others. The hangul is a species of red deer - a herbivorous animal. It is susceptible to various diseases, and, till recently, it has been bred in captivity only during late eighties and early nineties on experimental basis in erstwhile City Forest National Park, but the task seems not so simple now. Had that time the concerned agencies given due attention towards that project, the present day crises would have not been at least in beginning the project once again. The present very restricted range of this animal is also ever decreasing, due to grazing pressure and encroachment on their habitat. Perhaps the hangul is already destined to run out of time.

Extinction is very much a part of life on earth. And we are going to have to get used to it in the next few years because climate change is going to result in all sorts of disappearances. I'm not trying to make predictions. I'm saying we won't be able to save it all, so let's do the best we can. And at the moment I don't think our strategies are best placed to do that. We should be focusing our conservation endeavours on habitat management and conservation, spreading our net more widely and looking at good-quality habitat maintenance to preserve as much of the life as we possibly can, using hard science to make educated decisions as to which species are essential to a community's maintenance. It may well be that we can lose the cherries from the cake. But you don't want to lose the substance.

In the background of things saving the hangul habitat, or saving the Dachigam National Park landscape as a whole, is definitely going to serve the purpose to a greater extent otherwise, this biological massacre will take place, that too, in a grossly distorted manner which is likely to include a multitude of species losses constituting a basic and irreversible alteration in the nature even before we understand its working.


parvaiz ahmed said...

Read your article that published in GK,Was greatly presented and i must congratulate you for showing such a concern of saving Hangul, the pride of Kashmir,,
I would have posted reflections to GK but i m sorry i couldn't for being a correspondent with it.
Anyways keep it up..
I am prould of the veterinarians like you for such a great wrting..!!

Dr.Parvaiz Ahmed Reshi

Ashiq said...

Wonderful ideas brilliatly placed.I would suggest these ideas to be got incorporated in the recommendation list that emanated from recently concluded international conference on Hangul conservation.

Shahid said...

Recently I came across an article “Mass Global Species Extinction - Why We’re Causing it Today”. The writer, who so ever it is, has very wisely given the reference of some paragraphs of the Catherine Genovese murder story that was published in the New York Times in March of 1964. I find this story still very relevant to our present day conservation efforts, hence I want to share some initial paragraphs of it with you.
“For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.
Twice the sound of their voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.”
How could thirty-eight respectable citizens stand by and do nothing to help this poor woman? Many explained that it had to do with big-city apathy and our modern society’s slide into selfishness and indifference.
Two New York-based psychology professors Bibb Latane and John Darley posited that the thirty-eight people all failed to call the police because of social proof reasons. They argued that each person probably thought someone else must have surely made the call already.
They also suggested pluralistic ignorance may have been part of the cause too. This simply means that in distressful times, we often look around at how others are acting and key off their behavior. So if we’re unsure if something really is an emergency, we look for clues in the people around us, and if they’re not panicking or doing anything, we conclude that it must not be an emergency. They looked out the window and saw others ignoring the pleas, so they may have surmised there was nothing to worry about.
The way most of the world’s population today is overlooking the ongoing and unprecedented destruction of our world’s species and habitats seems eerily similar to the way those thirty-eight bystanders ignored Catherine Genovese’s screams back in 1964.
The Earth’s entire ecosystem is under attack and the vast majority of people are doing nothing. Why? Maybe it’s apathy, greed, selfishness or pluralistic ignorance. Maybe everyone thinks someone else will take care of the problem. Maybe people think they’ll be dead long before it affects them. Maybe it’s a combination of all of these reasons.
Thankfully there are some ecologists and biologists like Dr. Mir Mansoor who are fighting to save our world, but they represent a tiny and sad fraction of us all.
I am writing this to try and enlist many more people to first realize the emergency we’re presently facing and next to be moved to take some kind of action. This means us all.

Shahid Mudasir (A student of Mass Communication)

Sheikh said...

A brilliant and timely idea of hosting a discussion forum on conservation of Hangul – the State Animal of Jammu and Kashmir!

The discussion initiated by Dr Mansoor is quite appreciable, and I think he has rightly understood the whole hangul conservation scenario in right perspective, but how far the species is going to be benefited by such discussions remains yet to be seen.

Having great interest in animal ecology, I want to share some of my fallowing observations on the subject.

The Dachigam National Park is an exquisite Himalayan haven which is being ruined by a combination of factors, some which had been operating for decades while others identified recently.
• To begin with, virtually no protection exists in the upper meadows which are crucial to the survival of the Hangul deer. Of late, a guarded estimate suggests that over 35,000 livestock are grazed in Sangargulu and its adjoining meadows, thus depriving the Hangul deer of much needed nourishment required for them to survive the long winter. Out of this estimated livestock population, majority belongs to influential Gujjar community, who at times are guided by the park management itself to sneak in.
• The state government owned sheep farm protocol department owned guest house and trout hatchery which should have been moved out a long time ago, still operate, despite the financial losses they suffer and their unjustifiable existence in the park.
• Continued presence of security forces inside the national park and location of their camps right into the potential wildlife habitat add another dilemma to the existing confusion in the park.
• Armed insurgents also had a free run of the Park few years ago.
• The newest phenomenon developed by the park management by adding huge steel and concrete structures at critical habitat spots like construction of black bear enclosures at a site that is in close proximity and confluence point of Sarband (Harwan water reservoir) with rest of the national park and ecologically so crucial for many species due to edge effect of aquatic and terrestrial microhabitat.

All this has ruined the Dachigam National Park and has resulted in a drastic fall in the Hagul population with enenent threat of its extinction and those of other species in the park.

Due to these pressures the status of bears and leopards in the area is very much well known to many of us as they too are no better off.

With regards.
Sheikh Iqbal

Adil said...

Hi all!

It is not mere extinction of Hangul due to destruction of its habitat, but it is something big than this if one can see on a life-size canvass. Since extinction of species is a natural phenomenon, and it is not only hangul which is facing the grunt of extinction, there have been many other species on earth which have met the similar fate in the past. But, if you are forcing extinction by way of deforestation, overgrazing, forest fires, raising of ghost like concrete and steel structures in its habitat which also strangulates the catchment character of the area and impacts the identity of Paradise on Earth i.e. Dal Lake, then matter doesn’t remain confined to Hangul alone. Already the problems in Dal Catchment, along with other physiognomic factors, have led to siltation of Dal Lake to such magnitude that the lake size has been reduced by over one third in the past decade. This includes the cutting down of over 4,000 trees inside the Salim Ali National Park to make way for a golf course. The sewage from the city of Srinagar and from house boats also pollutes the lake and people and official government agencies have reclaimed and encroached on the lake area. Red bloom, Eulena rubra, covers a vast portion of the lake, choking it and altering its ecology. The Nagin lake too is becoming degraded with duckweed taking over its surface during the spring months.

The Dal Development Project's de-weeding operations, despite acquiring costly and world class machinary seem more decorative than effective. Nothing less than social reform, coupled with treatment of catchment areas like Dachigam, Dara, Chhatrahama and Zaberwan will allow the lake to be restored.

As per the Detailed Project Report for the Conservation and Management of Dal-Nagin Lakes prepared by the Alternate Hydro Energy Centre of the University of Roorkee, the experts had conducted Radiometric Dating Technique and estimated the life expectancy of the lake at 355 years based on the siltation and sedimentation of the lake bed from its catchment area.
The report is about 10 years old and during these 10 years how much further degradation of Dal Catchment has taken place remains a question to be answered by different stake holders and state departments including Wildlife Department, as far Dachigam Park and adjoining Dara Reserve is concerned. In this regard, Sheikh Iqbal has rightly enumerated the vandalizing environmental factors operating within the Dachigam Catchment of Dal-Lake.

Thanks to Dr. Mir M. Mansoor and blog administrator for providing me a chance to express my concern on this burning issue, which certainly, has repercussions beyond a common man’s imagination.


Adil Bhat

Kuldip said...

I uphold the views of Dr. Mir Mansoor. He has shown the mirror image of something which everybody can't visualize. I think this is going to help in changing the mindset of many concerned people regarding long term conservation of some endangered species unique to this region, if not hangul!

But, at the same time we have to take into account the views expressed by Mr Sheikh and Adil on the subject, as the facts highlighted by them are really alarming and everybody should feel concerned about the same.

Dr. Kuldip Singh