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, October 22, 2010

The Ugly Face of Corruption

As hired contractors and government officials enrich their wallets and bank accounts, obnoxious weeds and encroachments engulf the water bodies

Dying Dal, Nigeen in Last Throes

Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

THE non-seriousness of the Government to restore the glory of Dal and Nigeen lakes is clearly reflected by overwhelming growth of obnoxious weeds and Azolla, a deadly water fern which if left unattended has the potential to kill the water bodies.

The problem is compounded by massive encroachments in the lake’s catchments and even in its interiors— defeating the purpose of ‘conservation measures’ for which crores of rupees have been spent so far.

In absence of sustained conservation measures by the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, the lakes have been pushed on the verge of extinction.

Ironically, the weeds have completely engulfed the front portion of the Dal overlooking LAWDA’s dockyard near the Northern Shore Road. Despite having state-of-the-art machines and manpower, the LAWDA has miserably failed to salvage the dying water body.

Reports state that massive construction is taking place in the catchments and core area of Dal. In blatant violation of the High Court orders, the construction material is being openly ferried into the lake particularly during the night.

Pertinently, the High Court monitoring the Dal conservation has placed blanket ban on any sort of construction in the lake and within 200 metres of its periphery. “Dal is gradually turning into a concrete jungle. There seems to be no accountability and people are undertaking construction in the lake at their will and whim. This has defeated the purpose of the conservation measures which were undertaken in past few years. The lake is back to square one,” the locals said.

The infectious waters of Dal containing harmful Azolla, has drastically affected the lakes outflow channels also. Pertinently, Chuntkul and Pokhribal acts as a catalyst in maintaining the water budget of Dal’s ecosystem as its surplus waters flows through them into Jhelum and Khushalshar respectively.

The deterioration of the outflow channels started since June this year when thick mats of obnoxious water fern Azolla gradually poured into them from the Dal. This has not only affected the outflow of Dal waters but marred its aesthetic beauty.

Presently, the Chuntkul and Pokhribal are engulfed by thick mats of Azolla and weeds. The problem is compounded by heavy accumulation of garbage and plastic bottles which have been stagnated in the water fern. “Chuntkul has been turned into a cesspool. It has been completely neglected as if it is not a part of Dal. The water emanates a pungent smell causing inconvenience to the locals as well as tourists,” fumed Muhammad Ashraf, an inhabitant of a neighboring locality overlooking Chuntkul.

Recounting the Chuntkul’s grandeur, Ashraf said till a few decades ago it was a favorite haunt of foreign tourists. “They used to erect tents on the islands of Chuntkul and enjoy fishing in its gushing and importantly crystal clear waters. But due to indifferent attitude of the concerned authorities, Chuntkul is all set to become a history,” he said.

Similarly, Pokhirbal, a part of Nigeen lake has started to turn into a marshy land due to heavy influx of Azolla, and weeds.

“Due to accumulation of Azolla on its surface, Pokhribal looks like field. It has gradually started to affect the Nigeen lake. LAWDA only cleans the front portion of Dal to hoodwink the people about the lake’s deteriorating condition,” the locals said.

The locals alleged that dozens of illegal structures have come up in Nigeen and its adjoining areas during the past four months.

“The construction material is ferried into the Nigeen and Pokhribal without any check. We are gradually losing our natural heritage. Ironically, the concerned officials in the disguise of ongoing unrest are acting as mute spectators to the vandalization of the lake,” they said.

Environmentalists have also expressed concern over the deteriorating condition of Chuntkul and Pokhribal. “The stagnation of Azolla in the outflow channels has triggered perennation in the water fern, which if left unattended will not only raise the lake’s bed but drastically affect its flora and fauna,” they said while recommending immediate dredging, desiltation and cleaning of the outflow channels.

Dr Shakeel Romshoo of Geology and Geophysics Department University of Kashmir said the conservation of inflow as well the outflow channels of Dal is imperative for maintaining its eco-system.

“Dal needs regular flushing to neutralize the concentration of nutrients. It is the natural process to prevent pollution in the lake. Steps on priority need to be taken to improve the inflow and outflow capacity of the lake,” Romshoo said

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