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, January 2, 2011

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Zeenat describes an internal departmental tussle that may end with neither doing the right thing

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 26, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Irrigation, Wildlife Departments Lock Horns Over Hokersar Wetland

Srinagar: Restoration of an important water channel to Hokersar Wetland reserve has brought the departments of Flood Control and Wildlife at loggerheads.

Irked by “regular obstacles” by the Wildlife department in the channel’s restoration, recently, the Department of Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) has shot a notice to the Wildlife Warden, Wetland Division Hokersar-Narbal, threatening legal action under the Water Resources Act if restoration of the channel was hampered again.

In the beginning of this year, I&FC department started work for restoration of a channel along the previous alignment through the Hokersar wetland.

However, I&FC officials alleged the Wildlife department stopped this work without citing any concrete reason.

“The unwarranted action initiated by your department is against the Water Resources (Regulation and Management) Act 2010,” Executive Engineer, Flood Spill Channel, Division Narbal, writes in the notice (FSCDN/4877-97), a copy of which is with this newspaper, to the Wildlife Warden, Hokersar.

“The Department of Wildlife shall be made responsible for any loss, damage which will be caused by floods in the Srinagar city and its adjacent villages and areas because of the obstruction caused by your office in execution of the channel across Hokersar which has got defunct with the passage of time. The flood is expected any time up to 2011-12 as per the flood frequency chart in the Valley of Kashmir and the management of flood has become inevitable for the department to save people from any devastation,” it reads.

The notice states that in exercise of the powers vested by virtue of the Water Resources (Regulation and Management) Act 2010, the I&FC department is empowered for development, management, construction, alteration, extension and flood management in the Valley.

“The Government has felt necessary to take measures for the purpose of protecting the life and property from danger caused by the floods. It is, as such, impressed upon that the obstruction caused be removed forthwith and the staff be directed not to indulge or interfere in the execution of the vital project, which is an offence and liable for punishment under section 139, 156 and 168 of the Water Resources Act-2010,” the notice further reads.

Meanwhile, one of the officials at Hokersar, who wished not be named, told ‘Kashmir Images’ that “before going for any kind of work they (I&FC dept) should not forget the ruling of Supreme Court and Wildlife Protection Act (2002) under which no department or government can alter the boundaries of a wetland”. He said, “If construction of flood channel goes without examining the Supreme Court ruling then flood department will land in difficulties.” He informs, in Nov 2008, during a joint survey conducted by then Wildlife Warden Hokersar and Executive Engineer of I&FC Narbal Division, the latter was told about the scope of the construction of flood channel from Soibugh area which will not only protect Srinagar city from floods but also protect Hokersar from extinction.

“If the feeding channel is constructed from Soibugh side then feeding channel would also be supported by the bunds which shall reduce the silt load in the Hokersar which otherwise has created havoc with the wetland and reduced its carrying capacity and shrunk its area from 14 sq.kms to 2.5 sq. kms.”

The Wildlife officials contend that if the flood channel if properly planned, it would, in the long run, help in the survival of the wetland as well as Srinagar.

Meanwhile, Chief Engineer FC&I Kashmir, Mir Najeebullah said his department has discussed the project with the Wildlife department and those manning the Hokersar wetland a number of times and that the latter had agreed to the restoration work also.

Asked what about the survey conducted jointly by the two departments, the Chief Engineer said, “I don’t know what happened to that later; but the project have been approved by Central Water Commission (CWC) and it’s their people who are there to guide us about it, like how we can go further with it…”

He said the other day Deputy Commissioner Budgam has written a letter to the Chief Secretary seeking his intervention into the matter “so that we could start the restoration work without any hindrance.”

When contacted, Chief Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, Pritam Singh told ‘Kashmir Images’ that “nobody from I&FC department approached me ever for any kind of permission.”

He said as far as the ruling of the Supreme Court and Wildlife Protection Act 2002 is concerned, nobody can tamper with the boundaries of a wetland.

“I&FC department will not be permitted for any kind of work that will violate the guidelines of Supreme Court or Wildlife Protection Act,” the Chief Wildlife Warden said.

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