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, January 7, 2011

Not all Plunder of Forests is Due to Mischief

Kashmir's green gold - its pristine forests - are steadily depleting due to poor management practices and a lack of trained workforce, says Javaid

(Professor Javaid Iqbal Bhat, 31, was born in Anantnag. He completed his Bachelor's degree from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar, and his M.A. and M. Phil. from the Centre for English Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was nominated for the President of India Gold Medal for the highest Final Grade Point Average (FGPA) in the Masters Programme, and got Distinction for his M. Phil. dissertation on Salman Rushdie's "Shalimar the Clown." He currently teaches as a permanent faculty in the Post Graduate Department of English at the South Campus of the University of Kashmir.)

The Wealth Plundered

Forests are important for mankind not only because they provide timber and a variety of non-wood products (mushrooms, medicines, vegetables, etc.) but also because they influence various environmental factors. Forests are rightly known as earth's blanket and world's air-conditioner.

There is vast difference between B.Sc Agri. and M. Sc Agri./Horticuture/Computer Science etc. and B. Sc or M. Sc Forestry. In forestry graduation we read forest subjects for four years, whereas Academic B.Sc. needs only three years. From the regime of Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad Ex-Prime Minister of J&K State, the B.Sc and M.Sc Agri/Arts and other graduates but not forestry graduates were recruited in the Forest Department who were not capable to preserve, maintain and tend the forests of Jammu and Kashmir. For Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF), Wildlife Ranger, Forester, Forest Inspector eligibility had been kept as graduation with science subjects like physics, veterinary science, engineering etc. alongwith forestry subject. Really, it is sheer injustice to forestry students. There are some Arts graduates who serve as Beat Officers quite ignorant about forestry and still exist in the department. Certainly not a healthy trend.

The KAS syllabus does not include the forestry subject at all. When a candidate can take any other subject in KAS, why not forest subject? It is a sheer injustice in favour of forestry students who have brought credit in graduation and post-graduation.

The result of this mismanagement is obvious. Our forests are thinning day by day and 25% forest area has been put under maize crop by the local Gojars and residents. It also caused scarcity of food for wild animals who left the forests and in search of food came to the villages where valuable human lives they destroy day by day. The Wildlife Department feels itself helpless in controlling these beasts in spite of the orders of the Government for the safety of human lives.

Marked climate change due to heavy forest loss and pollution has posed a great threat to people in Kashmir Valley also, resulting in various diseases, pollution, less crop production, degraded barren lands, etc.

Our state, no doubt, was self-sufficient in timber and firewood and was called as Biomass State of India and we were unable to supply Railway Department our sleepers of timber for the construction of Railway lines. Now, the time changed and our "Green Wealth" in the hands of incapable officers deteriorated and our timber yield dwindled. Now the Government of India managed to get this timber from Canada, USA and other European countries to meet out the local demands of the people. A moment to think for Forest Department.

The forces of nature became detrimental and we lost the delicacy of the past and the wholesome climate. Now we have less rain and snowfall, the water bodies shrunk, the production of fish disappeared, the herbal plants vanished, the cattle wealth decreased and global climatic change caused a great havoc for human race. In general, we people in Kashmir face innumerable difficulties in saving our land from erosion, in getting timber, in the preparation of medicines and in getting the other good dishes of forest i.e. mushrooms, medicines, vegetables, and other things. The wild forest birds - cocks, hens, teetar, batair, hangul, goats and roosoo also disappeared much which were in abundance in the past times.

Some forest divisions are in gripped by fatal diseases and big statured trees dry up due to the negligence of these untrained and incapable officers. These authorities never conduct experiments and other safety measures as we see in European countries where the scholars of one country visit the forests of the other, conduct seminars and debates and consult each other for the safety of the forests. New ways and means are found which are owned in practice and their forests flourish. Those countries export timber worth billions and trillions and here in order to conceal our incompetence and incapability we set the forests on fire and destroy all the trees including grass and shrubs and accuse bakerwals and Gojars for it, which is not true.

Had not Supreme Court of India passed a relevant order (banning green felling) for the safety of live trees of pine, kail, fir, deodar, poostul and others, we would have lost this green treasure altogether.

We see forest wealth being plundered. We have to come forward and save ourselves from an imminent destruction.

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