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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

City of Shame

Abdul Rashid recalls that Srinagar was not so dirty a couple of decades back and suggests measures to improve the city's ambiance

(Mr. Abdul Rashid Khan, 62, was born in Magarmal Bagh, Srinagar. He matriculated from the Khalsa High School, Srinagar, and completed his Bachelor's degree from Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. He received his M.A. in Economics from the University of Kashmir, and completed his research work at the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi. Mr. Khan subsequently joined the state police force, retiring as the Inspector General of Police (IGP). He received President's police medal for meritorious services, and two Sher-e-Kashmir medals for meritorious services and gallantry, respectively. Mr. Khan is presently a member of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). In his leisure time, Mr. Khan enjoys, writing and gardening.)

The Fourth Dirtiest City

Srinagar City once known as the Venice of the East, ranks at 420 among the 423 cities of the country, in sanitation, thereby achieving the distinction of being the 4th dirtiest City of India, as per the recent survey conducted by the Urban development ministry.

This should not surprise us as our state has already made a mark in corruption by gaining a top slot in ranking. If these are the real pointers, for becoming a model state, then we have obtained the target.

In early 70’s and 80’s , the situation of sanitation in Srinagar city was not so bad as we see it today. Despite of the meager resources of manpower and having little infrastructure, the SMC now known as Srinagar Municipal corporation (SMC), would make all efforts to manage the sanitation in better way and used to keep the city clean.

In those days, even the government employees would imbibe a lot of sense of discipline and work with commitment and dedication, which is now-a-days missing.

During summer season, though having poor infrastructure, the Mushkies would sprinkle the water on roads manually to get the dust settled and make the atmosphere cool and soothing.

The SMC has a definite role to play in managing the sanitation and keeping the City clean. In recent times we have seen the already installed dustbins, disappearing from its places. The reasons behind shifting these bins may be known to the SMC, but it is surprising that no alternative arrangement have been made at these places and instead the heaps of garbage’s, filth and waste are found on the roadside, which become the breeding ground for various diseases, particularly in hot summer.

We may not blame the SMC only, but it is the residents of the City of summer capital, who are also responsible for this mess.

As we lack traffic sense, similarly we are very poor in exhibiting the civic sense, the two important basic indicators of a civilized society.

We are keen to keep our households and premises clean and take pleasure in throwing waste and filth on the roads and these small dumps become exposed to flies and insects. The huge dumps of filth and waste are seen on roadsides at various places in uptown and to name a few, these are Rawalpora, opposite Government high school, Barzullah, Magarmal Bagh, police station Rajbagh crossing, Residency road near Polo-view opposite Mughal Darbar and the biggest dump on Boulevard, near, Buchwara link road. These dumps are not only in abundance with filth but also gives such a foul smell that tourists who happen to pass by these places particularly the Boulevard and Polo-view, will never bother to visit Srinagar city again. These dumps are not cleared by the concerned agency in the early mornings or before sunrise but are mostly seen being lifted during peak hours when the business activity starts. The situation becomes worst, when the dumps of garbage get accumulated to an un imaginable extent due to Hartals and Bandhs, which are frequent in the Srinagar City. It is not only the SMC, but other departments like UEED and LAWDA, which are also responsible for maintenance of the Srinagar city particularly the tourist areas located on the right side of Boulevard road from Dalgate to Harwan including the famous Dal Lake on its left side.

The Srinagar City, was once rightly known as an important tourist destination and would attract number of domestic and foreign tourists. The security situation in Kashmir was no doubt an important factor responsible for downward trend in the inflow of tourist graph during recent past but the lack of infrastructure which include, the sanitation and the cleanliness of the City is becoming a major impediment in attracting the large number of tourists particularly the foreigners, to visit Kashmir. The J&K tourism department no doubt is making all out efforts, including incurring expenditure of millions of rupees on advertisement, for growth and promotion of tourism but have not obtained the desired results for giving maximum fillip to tourist industry. Despite the fact that there is dearth of basic tourist infrastructure like five star hotels, expressways and other amenities required to attract the foreign and rich domestic tourists but even then they are curious to visit Srinagar because it is gifted with natural beauty, guarded by high mountains like Mahadev, Zabarwan , famous for Mughal gardens, Dal lake and blessed with shrines. The tourists enjoy and prefer to stay in houseboats as it is a unique experience to know closely the people and their culture. The tourists also like to visit Hazratbal and Makdoom Sahib (RA) shrines besides having a trip to the Shankeracharya Temple.

It is not only the heaps of garbage’s that make the City dirty but also the absence of drainage sin some areas and existence of the poor and faulty drainage system in other areas, which are responsible for turning Srinagar into the filthiest city particularly during rainy days. The faulty drainage system is not due to bad engineering only but also the residents of the capital city do contribute the maximum, for choking the drains, by throwing polythene and other substantial material. The natural waterbodies of Nadurgund near PeerBagh, Tengapora, Bemina and AcharLake which in earlier time would absorb the excessive rain water during rainy season, now hardly appear on the map of Srinagar as these have been filled and big mansions and residential houses have been constructed. The filling of Nallah Mar, which used to serve as a traditional drainage for old and historical city besides as a means of river transport, was a big engineering blunder. I personally feel that the future generation will never forgive those engineering experts who approved and implemented this project in compliance to their political mentors and did not have guts to oppose this proposal, in the larger interest of public of Srinagar City. We must also learn from the people of Leh and leaders of HDCL who have contributed lot in making Leh as a hot tourist destination especially for foreign tourists. The fast inflow of tourist rush to Leh is also responsible for increasing their per capita income besides opening new avenues of employment. One can find Leh as clean as the City of Shimla. The tourist industry ,being the major industry of J&K state, it is high time for the political leadership and the public to rise to occasion, to create a healthy environment to strengthen the basic infrastructure and to keep Srinagar City and other tourist areas clean, for promotion and growth of this industry. To make our City pollution free, the men in power must pass a legislation to ban the import and production of polythene carry bags in J&K state and enforce the law, right at Lakhanpur and Lower- Munda Toll posts instead of making futile efforts in City. The unabated increase in the vehicular traffic and its congestion, has increased the pollution level in City and made the situation worst.

It is also earnestly suggested that the banks must stop lending of car loans temporarily till the situation improves. Even the winter capital of Jammu city is experiencing high level pollution due to presence of suspended particles in the atmosphere having exceeded the limit considered as safe for breathing. We have to sacrifice our individual interests for the welfare of community interest. It is still never late then ever, for all concerned agencies to be honest and sincere in their efforts to keep Srinagar City clean with the cooperation of public and make its environment pollution free.

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