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 14, 2010

Fishing in Kishenganga

Yusuf hooks in an enchanting valley along banks of the Kishengaga river

(Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 57, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf teaches aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)

Make Gurez Suitable for Sports Angling

Gurez is a small but an enchanting and mesmerizing valley, lying in farthest north of Kashmir Himalayas, surrounded by Shamasbari Mountains with Mount Habba Khatoon in the middle and river Kishenganga running like a serpent through its entire length from Tulail to Kanzalvan.

Gurez was considered an important destination for explorers and adventurers in the mid twentieth century. Pertinently Srinagar-Bandipora and Gurez route was a nearest and easiest access to mighty Mount Nanga Parbat before independence. Most of the German climbing expeditions preferred this route to Nanga Parbat. It was also favorite route for traders in the ancient times. It reveals that tourism is not a new concept to Gurez but has remained an important tourist centre since time immemorial. It lost its importance after independence when the traditional route to Neelam Valley was blocked by the armies of two sides. Nothing special was left behind to attract tourists to this hidden hamlet except the rich cultural heritage.

After thorough exploration of Gurez valley by Kashmir University Reconnaissance Expeditions the Tourism Department and other tourism players have come to forefront and are now trying their utmost to put Gurez on international Tourist map for last few years. No doubt efforts are being made to raise basic infrastructure there but little attention is being paid towards exploring and exploiting the new components of tourism which suites to this mysterious valley. Appreciatively the Tourism Department is holding tourism festivals there regularly to acquaint tourism players about Gurez, while the Tourism Minister, Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora is suggesting introducing Mountain Biking Rallies on Srinagar-Gurez sector like the one organized by the Indian Motor Sports Federation on Mughal Road in June this year but he is silent about other possibilities. Mountain biking is possible beyond Gurez. One could extend it up to Drass via Tulail, Baduab. Chakvali and Mushko valley once the road on this sector is thrown open for general public. It is great of Forest Minister and local M.L.A that they recently managed to travel on this newly built road. It is in fact a cherished desire of the Member Legislative Assembly, Mr. Nazir Ahmad Khan (Gurezi) to see domestic and foreign tourists visiting this wonderful Himalayan valley. He is leaving no stone unturned in motivating different organizations in Kashmir to send their teams to hold one or the other tourism related activity in Gurez, which would certainly pave way to attract the tourists from other parts of the country but he needs support of the Tourism Ministry to fulfill his dreams. There are many untouched tourism products those need to be developed in a big way, making thereby Gurez a major tourism destination of the state.

No doubt Gurez has a tremendous scope of becoming one of the leading and most favored tourist destinations of the state but the basic facilities lack there. There are many tourist attractions which one could offer to intended tourists here. The concept itineraries could make Gurez a distinctive tourist destination. Pertinently, besides heritage, cultural and medicinal plant tourism, the valley has the potential to offer many adventure outdoor pursuits like ski-touring, paragliding, parasailing, mountain biking and wild water sports etc.

Besides these activities, there is possibility of introducing sport angling on the gushing waters of river Kishenganga. No doubt sport angling is an old sports tourism activity in the world but it would be a new concept to our tourism industry. Sport Angling is an international sporting event and is catching up fast in the sub-continent.

God has bestowed beautiful river Kishenganga (Neelam) to Gurez valley which is full of trout fish but we could not use it for tourism activities. River Kishenganga actually originates from Kowbal, the upper reaches of Tulail valley and after running down through the entire length of Tulail and Gurez valleys it finally flows down to Neelam valley across the actual line of control. From Tourism point of view Kishenganga is ideal for competitive angling. It is wide and deep with turbulent and wild waters at many places. The calm and scenic environs of Gurez offer best opportunity for sport angling but should someone take a lead in exploiting this sector.

After setting up sub-offices at Dawar and Tulail the Fisheries Department has identified many fishing beats at places like Budogam, Sheikhpora, P.T.L, Kashpat, Burnio, Markot and Dawar etc for commercial fishing.. Commercial fishing is conducted on this river for long but to our dismay the Department has never given a thought to make fishing a regular sporting event. They just remained confined to its commercial activities unaware of the fact that it has tremendous scope in tourism sector. At the moment their activities are limited to sale of permits to fishermen, rare fish efficiently at their farms and then sell it out to public. This is no doubt generating huge revenue for the state but its other indirect benefit like promotion of rural and sports tourism are being ignored.

Fishing for sport, recreation, and relaxation is called sportfishing, or angling. Angling is one of the most popular forms of recreation in the world. Sport angling could take our tourism to new heights once it is recognized as a tourism product. The Tourism Department had in fact made an attempt to promote sport angling as a recreation when they highlighted this tourist component in their brochures. They should now give serious thought to this sector and put it on their annual calendar of activities. It is admitted fact that sport angling will never grow in Kashmir unless the Tourism Department adopts it. No doubt holding Tourism Festivals at Gurez is important but conducting recreational activities such as angling, skiing, mountain biking, paragliding and parasailing etc are equally important, as they have great significance in rural tourism. The sources and expert manpower is available in the Tourism Department who could pursue and patronize these activities. Pertinently the Deputy Director Tourism, Mr. Mahmud Ahmad is an avid adventurer and explorer who have helped his department exploring new trekking routes in Kashmir and Ladakh. He also played a lead role in introducing Snow Baseball at Gulmarg last winter. His expertise should be utilized for promoting sport angling in the valley as well. Director Tourism, Mr. Farooq Shah is a visionary person in whose tenure the adventure tourism received big boost.

The three most favored methods of fishing in both salt and fresh water are bait fishing, spin fishing, and fly-fishing. In all three methods, a fisher chooses a rod, a reel, and line of an appropriate weight and strength. Lures are chosen that imitate the game fish’s prey. Freshwater fishing takes place in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Game fish in these waters include trout, bass, and many other species.

In the United States, many organizations sponsor regional and national angling tournaments. Of these, freshwater tournaments governed by B.A.S.S. are the most popular. Each year 7,50,000 anglers participate in local, state, and regional events. The competitions include cash awards and prizes for various categories, including the biggest fish caught, the first fish caught, the most fish caught, and heaviest cumulative weight of fish caught. During tournaments, anglers keep captured fish in aerated containers—called live wells—in their boats. At the end of the day the fish are measured and recorded at the tournament center. They are then released unharmed. Anglers who amass enough points by catching fish in local and regional tournaments are invited to fish in the annual BASS masters Classic. Many communities sponsor fishing derbies for local children which teach them proper fishing techniques, etiquette, and conservation.

With a view to introduce angling as a competitive sport in the state the Tourism Department or the Fisheries Department must patronize the state level Sport Angling Association and must sponsor Angling Championships annually. The MLA, Gurez should also pursue this segment of tourism in his area. The meeting held between Mr. N.A.Gurezi, Dr. K.A Tarzan and this writer last year in connection with the formation of state level association did not bear fruit till date.

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