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, April 2, 2010

Planet Under Siege

Sajjad ponders on what diminishing rain and snow will bring

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 45, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

Earth Hour

Yesterday, over 100 countries went dark when millions of homes and business houses turned off their lights for one hour to mark their stand against climate change. This was done during Earth Hour - an activity started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Today it is a global sustainability movement and the world’s largest global climate change initiative. In other words, the initiative is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way against climate change.

The erratic snowfall and poor rainfall coupled with unusual rise in day temperatures is an evidence of climate change in the valley. According to a report on ‘Climate Change in Kashmir’ by an international anti-poverty agency, “Temperature on an average in Kashmir region has shown a rise of 1.45 Celsius while in Jammu region the rise is 2.32 Celsius. The Indian Meteorological Department’s monitoring reveals that temperatures are increasing in both Jammu and Kashmir valley, with significant increase in maximum temperature of 0.05 degrees Celsius per year.”

Climate change leading to extreme weather patterns is a big challenge which we are today confronting for a sustainable future. Like many of other places across globe, Kashmir has experienced the effects of climate change over the past decade or so. Even as Kashmir is battling for two decades to come out of the bloody conflict, it is now changing climate which has put its dazzling natural beauty and abundant resources is at stake.

Unprecedented rise in temperature has challenged Kashmir’s long cherished status of a temperate destination. Over the past few weeks, the day temperatures in Srinagar observed alarming increase of over 10 degree Celsius above normal and hovered around 22 to 26 degrees Celsius. This month witnessed a huge rain deficit in March which otherwise used to be the rainy month. Metrological experts say that normal rainfall should have been 107.3 mm in March as against 43.9 mm recorded in this month.

Notably, mountainous regions are generally more at risk to the climate change which affects every aspect – be it environment, social or economics systems. Though such change is caused by natural influences as well, we cannot over look the fact that more use of anti-environmental lifestyles has put our sustainable growth in peril. Notably, independent international agencies have also mentioned the movement of heavy military vehicles as one of the reasons for excess pollution in the Valley. The agency report lists that convoys and heavy military vehicles produce a high level of greenhouse gases and are out of the purview of the law enforcing agencies in pollution control.

Climate change refers to an increase in average global temperatures, caused primarily by increases in “greenhouse” gases such as Carbon Dioxide. Some atmospheric gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse. These gases are known as greenhouse gases. The rise in temperature on Earth as certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy is referred as ‘greenhouse effect’.

Carbon dioxide, though not the most potent of greenhouse gases is the most significant one. It is the human activity which has imbalanced the natural cycle of the greenhouse effect and related processes. NASA’s Earth Observatory is worth quoting the effect human activity is having on the natural carbon cycle, for example: In addition to the natural fluxes of carbon through the Earth system, anthropogenic (human) activities, particularly fossil fuel burning and deforestation, are also releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

To make the things easily understandable, one of my acquaintances who is basically an environmentalist says, “When we mine coal and extract oil from the Earth’s crust, and then burn these fossil fuels for transportation, heating, cooking, electricity, and manufacturing, we are effectively moving carbon more rapidly into the atmosphere than is being removed naturally through the sedimentation of carbon, ultimately causing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to increase. Also, by clearing forests to support agriculture, we are transferring carbon from living biomass into the atmosphere (dry wood is about 50 percent carbon).The result is that humans are adding ever-increasing amounts of extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Because of this, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are higher today than they have been over the last half-million years or longer”.

Increased greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect is feared to contribute to an overall warming of the Earth’s climate, leading to a global warming (even though some regions may experience cooling, or wetter weather, while the temperature of the planet on average would rise). Be ready for the fact that all agricultural yields are expected to decrease for all major crops and half of the glaciers will be significantly reduced by 2050, he said quoting an international report.

The pace at which degradation of environment in our valley is taking place, predicts a future for us where there will be acute drinking water scarcity, loss of forests, immensely polluted atmosphere. The issue is so important that any compromise on this can lead to total destruction. We need to be committed and more determined to address the issue of deforestation, wildlife preservation and pollution control not as just a one-day commemoration event, but a complete plan needs to devised by one and all to launch environment cleaning drive.

We are a young state with major portion of our population in the age group of 25 years and below. We need to tap the young potential so that they are made to contribute a bit to resolve environment-related issues. They are basically a group of iron willed individuals who will be ready to go out in the severe cold or scorching heat and pull off miracles to bring about a change. Given the right kind of platform, there will huge number of such youth force who will be ready to spend their time happily for environmental awareness/ cleaning operations.

Environmentalist prescribe measures like lowering of emissions by reducing the number of vehicles, shifting people's diets to vegetarianism, focusing on eco-tourism and ending rampant deforestation as some of the immediate measures against the climate change. Since traditional rainfall water supply practices are under threat, there is urgent need to develop a proper irrigation system. Some have even suggested changing crops, but this can have an impact on food habits of the people of the state. It is also believed that if diversified crops are used and better horticulture practices are adopted, crops will fare well in future amid changing climate.

These are just a few small parts of a solution to a huge problem. Reality is that the growing climate change observed in Kashmir demands attention of planners to save the way of life from fading away with the changing climate.

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