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, April 18, 2010

Shrinking Wetlands

An Editorial in the Kashmir Images reiterates a well known, but sad, fact

Shrinking Wetlands

As the entire world becomes more and more conscious towards environment and global warming is being viewed as a serious threat all over, Kashmir continues to remain insensitive as its water bodies shrink at an alarming pace. Though the concerned authorities talk about the issue in seminars and debates but no concern has ever been shown towards the wetlands of the state particularly those of Kashmir Valley. Be it Hokersar, Haigam, Shalbugh – all the wetlands are shrinking at an alarming pace and even in certain cases the human greed has turned one time wetlands into horticulture orchards or agricultural fields.

The concerned department seems clueless as how to ensure the safety of these wetlands. Inertia on the part of the government, human greed and lack of awareness among the masses is resulting into the death of these wetlands. The migratory birds, for whom Kashmir’s wetlands used to be the greatest attraction have started looking for other destinations. Wildlife Department that is the custodian of these wetlands has failed miserably to save these water bodies and interestingly is clueless about several wetlands including Wullar, Narkara and Satnam as the department has no data available with it about these wetlands.

Kashmir is witnessing disastrous weather changes from past several years, this year being no different as Valley witnessed negligible snowfall this winter. And the temperatures now are showing an above normal trend. These changes in weather patterns are enough to alert conscientious citizen to ponder why this all is happening. Our wetlands are shrinking; forest cover is shrinking; lakes and rivers are drying up and; we are heading towards ecological and environmental disaster.

Ironically neither the government or civil society nor the common public seems concerned about the dangers looming large. The wetlands have started vanishing and no steps are being taken to save these. Dal lake is dying and despite huge amounts of money being pumped into save Dal project, there seems no improvement in the health of the lake. It is heartening to note that the Centre has sanctioned Rs 350 crore and Rs 300 crore for conservation of Wular and Dal lakes respectively. It is a welcome decision but the point is that is there any accountability to see whether the money is being spent properly. Fact of the matter is that money has never been a problem as for as conservation of Dal lake is concerned but the fault lies with execution of schemes. Government needs to be serious if it is interested in saving Kashmir’s water bodies and the public too need to be proactive. They need to maintain a constant pressure on the government so that it is forced to prioritize the preservation of wetlands and other water bodies.

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