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, May 14, 2010

Stinking Capital

Srinagar earns the dubious distinction of being among the dirtiest cities in India (Greater Kashmir). An Editorial in the Rising Kashmir puts the blame squarly on its citizens - both within the government and those on the outside

Srinagar - 4th Dirtiest City

Srinagar: The state’s summer capital and one of the oldest cities in the world - Srinagar has bagged the ignominious distinction of being the fourth dirtiest city in India, according to sanitation ratings by the union urban development ministry.

In a national survey on where cities stand on sanitation, Srinagar has earned the ‘distinction’ of figuring right at the bottom, raising a question mark on the functioning of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, which spends lakhs of rupees on “sanitation” annually.

The picturesque city of lakes, gardens and hills, founded by King Pravarasena II around 10 BC, has scored a mere 19.1 on a scale of 100 in the National Rating and Award Scheme for Sanitation for Indian Cities.

The city, where garbage litters on the streets round-the-clock, ranks at 420 among 423 cities in the sanitation ratings released by the union ministry. Against this, Jammu is far ahead ranking at no. 186. While Srinagar has just secured 19.1 points out of 100, Jammu bagged 36.114 points.

Srinagar has figured in the Red zone, just above three ‘little-known’ cities figuring in the extreme bottom. The cities are Pilbit (UP), Lakhanpur (UP) and Churu (Rajasthan).

The cities and towns have been rated on parameters like complete elimination of open defecation, elimination of open scavenging, safe collection and disposal of human excreta. On basis of the rating, cities have been classified as Red, Black, Blue and Green which would denote increasing level of achievement of good environmental and health outcomes.


Here is the SMC’s marks-wise report card. Elimination of manual scavenging (0/4); Percentage of properties with safe collection system (0/3); Proportion of total black waters safely treated and disposed (0/4); Proportion of total grey water safely disposed (0/3); Proportion of treated waters, Recycled and Reused (0/3); Proportion of total storm water drainage (0/3); Proportion of total waste regularly collected (0.3/4); Quality of drinking water (0/7) Water quality in water bodies (0/7); Reduction in water borne diseases (0/6); Are septage/sledge cleaned? (0/5); City water causes no impact on surrounding areas? (0/5); and Proportion of solid waste generated regularly collected (0.3/4).

According to officials, the survey was no surprise. “It was bound to happen. At a place were SMC prefers fountains to sanitation, such a survey shouldn’t surprise us,” said a top official, pleading anonymity. “It is time for the Government to get the matter probed because public money is going down the drain.”

The SMC authorities, however, shift the blame on other departments. “Assessed indicators pertain to four departments. Sanitation indicators of SMC, water quality indicators of PHE, water quality in water-bodies pertaining to LAWDA, and treatment of sewerage pertaining to Sewerage and Drainage department. The Srinagar City has poorly scored on the performance of other three departments, not the SMC alone,” said the SMC Joint Commissioner, Planning, Hamid Ahmad Wani.

The ratings were carried out as part of the National Urban Sanitation Policy, announced by the Central Government in October 2008 with the objective “that all Indian cities and towns become totally sanitized, healthy and livable, that is, they become ‘Nirmal Shahars’.” To sensitize the states and cities as well as the citizens about the current state of sanitation and raise awareness about the need for improvement, it had launched a National Rating Exercise in 2009 for Class I cities.

Pertinently, Chandigarh is on top, followed by Mysore, Surat, New Delhi Municipal Council area and Delhi Cantt. in the top five list of civic areas—graded by independent agencies appointed by the ministry.

Each city has been scored on 19 indicators divided into three categories: output (50 points), Process (30) and Outcome (20 points).

For the task, the ministry engaged three agencies -- AC Nielsen, Development & Research Services and Centre for Environment Planning Technology.

The survey was done in the city in January-February 2010 when a team from Union Ministry visited the state to assess the sanitation in Jammu and Srinagar.
* Secures ZERO In Sanitation
* Figures In RED ZONE
* Ranks 420 In Survey Of 423 Cities
* Jammu Cleaner At 186


Govt and people are both responsible for Srinagar’s fourth rank among the dirtiest cities of India

The ranking of Srinagar as the fourth dirtiest city in India in a survey by Urban Development Ministry may have disappointed the city dwellers but it does not come as a surprise. People have long been concerned over the deteriorating sanitation conditions of the city, increasing levels of pollution, degradation of water bodies including the famed Dal Lake and other related issues.

The city has earned the dubious distinction at the most embarrassing time for the state government when it was busy giving routine cosmetic touches to the roadsides ahead of Durbar Move. Maintaining a city’s charm is not all about erecting fountains at main avenues or dismantling footpaths in the name of road widening, it is about maintaining the basic standards of sanitation and aesthetics.

A casual tour through the city and one can realize the chaos it is descending into. The city is beset with plethora of civic problems. Roads inundated with potholes, overflowing drains, non-functional street lights, long and frequent traffic jams, heaps of unattended garbage, packs of stray dogs, footpaths and roadsides encroached by CRPF bunkers...the list is endless. All these issues also deprive the city of its aesthetic charm.

The government has failed to address all these issues despite announcing funds for various developmental projects from time to time. The lack of coordination between the various executing agencies has led to utter failure of the projects. Drainage works, moving at snail’s pace, has been keeping civilian and traffic movement suspended for months together in many localities of the city. The city’s traffic system is in complete disorder. Due to the exponential increase in the number of vehicles, the problem of traffic jams has assumed monstrous proportions. This is further compounded by unabated violation of traffic rules like wrong parking.

The authorities have also failed to address the problems within available resources. Bus stops and traffic lights, which could have been more than handy in streamlining the city traffic, have been left defunct. Streets littered with garbage is a common sight in the city. The authorities are yet to employ modern means of waste disposal and management. With the amount of waste growing by the day, there is bleak prospect for residents to have clean streets. Stray dog population has also increased manifold over the years adding to the unhygienic look of the city. Srinagar has traditionally served as one of the choicest tourist destinations, but with its worsening condition it won’t be a surprise if the tourist arrivals also show a steep decline in coming times.

The city has suffered from lack of civic sense as much as it has been a victim of government indifference and shortsightedness. To help restore its lost glory is therefore a collective responsibility.

For the bureaucracy, "the show must go on"

‘Srinagar development plan on cards’

Srinagar: Chief Minister’s advisor Mubarak Gul on Tuesday announced that “a special beautification -cum- development project will be formulated for the Srinagar city keeping in view its historical and socio political importance.” (GK NEWS NETWORK)

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