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, November 21, 2010

Dal's Condition is Reflective of Kashmir's Apathy Towards Everything Non-Political

Ayaz searches for a Kashmiri counterpart to Cheyon

(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 46, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.)


Dal Lake, commonly known as “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir” is the second largest lake in the state. It has a prominent place in our tourism and recreation sphere and is also an important source for commercial operations for fishing and water plant harvesting. Dal has been a place of attraction and interest to all rulers of Kashmir including Mughals, British and Dogras. All of them have taken effective steps to preserve it and promote its beauty by way of taking up measures for keeping it clean.

Whenever you talk about the beauty of Kashmir anywhere in the world, there is a certain mention of Dal Lake and its House Boats and floating colorful & decorated Shikaras. Visit to Kashmir is considered to be incomplete unless Dal is seen in a Shikara and a night is spent in a House Boat in the Dal.

This very Dal Lake which is our pride and has world fame is unfortunately ailing because of our condemnable attitude. The size of the lake has shrunk from its original area of 22 square kilometers to the present area of 18 square kilometers and there is concerning rate of sediment deposition due to catchment area degradation. So many floating gardens, commonly known as “Rad” in Kashmiri language, have also been now changed into dwellings. The encroachment to the Dal Lake has, at various times, been viewed seriously by certain local as well as foreign NGO’s by displaying a serious concern over the deteriorating condition of the lake. Even some foreign tourists who have seen the Dal before 50 years were shocked to see the present position of this renowned lake.

Why not? Dal has virtually lost a tremendous portion. The water quality has also deteriorated due to intense pollution caused by untreated sewage and solid waste that is fed into the lake from its peripheral areas and from the settlements and House Boats. Encroachment of water channels and consequent clogging has diminished the circulation and inflows into lake, so with the building up of phosphates and nitrogen, this has led to extensive weed growth leaving serious consequences on the biodiversity of the lake.

Almost fifteen drains and several other resources have released a total of 156.62 tones of phosphorus and 241.18 tones of inorganic nitrogen into the lake from discharge. Seepage and diffused runoff also adds to this pollution and have added further 4.5 tons of total phosphate and 18.14 tones of nitrogen.

Taking a serious note of these major causes for deterioration of Dal, environmental experts as well as certain agencies of public interest raised these issues from time to time and approached Government for taking effective measures to preserve the lake.

Even intervention of judiciary was also sought by these agencies. Although state Government, with the handsome funding from Central Government, envisaged a plan “Conservation and Management of Dal Lake” for this purpose.

Various PIL’s filed, till date, have resulted in a number of directives from the courts to the funding and implementing agencies. A huge amount has been disbursed by the Central Government for this purpose even only in year 2005 funds to the extent Rs.298.76 crores were sanctioned for the conservation of the lake. The measures which were to be taken under this conservation programme for rehabilitating the lake to bring it to its original shape were construction of siltation tanks, mechanical deweeding, regrouping of houseboats, deepening of outflow channel and removal of bunds, barricades and some floating gardens. A moratorium was to be imposed on new construction near to lake including the building of new houseboats. Resettlement plans for migrating the population from the lakefront and reforestation of catchment area to reduce erosion movement were also be taken up. For this purpose the implementing agency is LAWDA (Lakes & Waterways Development Agency). How far LAWDA has been effective in performing its job, it is known to everybody. The deterioration is on and Dal is losing its charm. LAWDA is making high claims that almost 40% of the recommended measures for preservation of the lake have been implemented. But the ground reality does not support this claim. Unfortunately all concerned agencies have not taken the assignment so serious. Dal has become a money minting machine for them. With no hard accountability LAWDA is working at snails speed. Our politicians are responsible for this bad situation. Just for their cheap political interest they exhibit their considerations. The unlawful occupants in the lake and its vicinity are used as vote bank and as such allowed to remain there. Likewise people residing nearby the lake are leaving n stone unturned to pollute the lake by allowing their drainage into it. Whom to blame now?

You may have not heard about Mr. Chiyong Sheng Cheyon, a Chinese gentleman who remains an unknown figure for us. Sixty one year old Sheng has done alone, without a single penny, what our LAWDA, Environmental Teams, N.G.Os and whole Government could not do with millions of rupees. There is a water lake in North China and Cheng resides in its vicinity. He used to visit the lake when he was just about seven years of age. At the age of fourteen, Sheng lost his parents to a natural death and was depressed by the decision of fate. He used to sit on the bank of this lake and observe its fauna and flora. This worked as a sort of solace for him and he fell in love with the lake. From those very days he visited the lake daily and once he spotted anything that could deteriorate the condition of the lake, be it a minute thing, he would make sure that the lake is cleaned of it. Encroachment from anyone or pollution from any source would face his stiff resistance as Cheng would be ready to raise voice against it and approached the local administration for any help as and when required.

Thus people didn’t dear to change the original shape and purity of this lake. Although Sheng is now old but his enthusiastic approach towards the preservation of this lake has kept him young. A peasant by profession with a small family and that too without any good financial resource, Sheng is managing the preservation of this lake. No Government is providing him any funds, no agency is assisting him and even his family is not helping him in this noble cause. What makes him to do it? No money, no assistance, no rewards, no awards, nothing but his will to do.

A conscious mind with strong will is required to preserve the Dal, otherwise the present situation is desperate. Let politicians come out of their political interests to save the Dal. Let LAWDA be made accountable to complete its programme within a specified time. Let environmental N.G.Os educate the people reside nearby the lake and ensure no sewage is allowed to flow in Dal. Be everyone realistic, there is no limit to what you can do by yourself and by influencing other people. Let every one of us especially LAWDA take a lesson from Chiyong Shen Cheyon.

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