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.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wildlife Protection

Mir laments the shrinking habitat of the wild

(Dr. Mir M. Mansoor, 55, was born in Shopian. He completed his schooling from the M.L. Higher Secondary School in Shopian. He attended the Government Degree College in Anantnag, receiving his B.Sc. degree in Natural Sciences, and subsequently received a degree in Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry (BVSc & AH) from the Ranchi Veterinary College, Rajindrea Prasad University, Bihar. He has received mid-career post-graduate training in Advanced Wildlife Management (AWM) at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and a post-graduate diploma in Conservation Breeding & Management of Endangered Species (CBME)from the University of Kent at Centerbury, U.K. Dr. Mansoor is the Chief Wildlife Biologist (Veterinary) in the J&K State Wildlife Protection Department. He has received the "Bharat Jyoti" Award and the "Glory of India" Gold Medal and has 30 publications to his credit. In his leisure time, he enjoys nature photography, travel and browsing on internet.)

Wildlife Needs Habitat off the Beaten Track

We are currently losing, worldwide, about 100 species per day. The reason for this is simply we as humans think that we own, and have the right to dominate, every square inch of the Earth. Species are becoming extinct or are moving fast towards endangerment to become extinct because of an out and out destruction of habitat (e.g. paving it or turning it into agriculture farms, golf courses, housing developments, fruit orchards or tourist attraction areas), thereby making the wilderness areas untenable (useless) as wildlife habitats.

In four million years of human progression on earth, there has never been an area inaccessible to humans i.e. an area which we deliberately choose not to enter so that the other species that live there can flourish unmolested by humans. There are places like Wildlife Protected Areas falling under different categories i.e. National Parks, Sanctuaries or Reserves, which despite having strict laws, rules or guidelines for their management as wildlife habitats, face lot of biotic / anthropogenic interference. Besides, the intentional human recreation has always remained a priority there. To my knowledge, there has never been any place, irrespective of its area size, from which the human community has voluntarily excluded itself.

In the recent years, there has been a lot of talk about looking for life forms on other planets. But, the hundred million dollar question is why should we do this? Is it our quest to find these planets to invade the even more fragile habitats that may be found there and destroy their life forms, the way we have already treated the wildlife on this planet? I hope we never find it!

While the thought of finding such life is intriguing, I haven’t heard anyone suggest that how are we going to communicate with intelligent life on other planets, when we can’t even communicate with the intelligent life on this planet?

Traditionally, observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife were considered to be 'non-consumptive' activities because removal of animals from their natural habitats is not involved. However, today, there is a growing recognition that wildlife viewing recreation can have serious negative impacts on wildlife, because, these activities are extensive in nature and have the ability to disrupt wildlife in many ways, particularly by displacing animals from an area. Recreational disturbance has traditionally been viewed as most detrimental to wildlife during the breeding season. People have an impact on wildlife habitat and all that depends on it, no matter what the activity is. Perhaps the major way that people have influenced wildlife populations is through encroachment into wildlife areas. Recreationists are, ironically, destroying the very thing they love i.e. the blooming buzzing confusion of nature.

In other words, if we are to preserve the other species with which we share the Earth, we need to set aside large, interconnected areas of habitat that are entirely off limits to humans. My idea of what constitutes viable habitat is not important but what matters is how the wildlife who live there think.

When a road is built through a wildlife habitat, many species will not cross it, even though they are physically capable of doing so. For example, a musk deer that prefers dense vegetation as its habitat may be afraid to cross such an open area where the animal may be vulnerable to attack by poachers or its predators. The result is a loss of habitat, a portion of preferred mates, foods, and other resources of the species have become effectively unavailable to it. This can reduce population size of the species, cause its inbreeding, impoverish its gene pool, and impair its ability to adapt to changing circumstances (such as global warming). It can lead to local (and eventually, final) extinction. Small, isolated populations can easily be wiped out by a fire, flood or any other natural catastrophe.

For that matter, we have to learn lessons from our observations in some of our top ranking Protected Areas. For example our observations suggest that the increasing anthropogenic pressures in Dachigam National Park are tending to change its basic ecology gradually. The forest fires are now a regular phenomenon there. New opportunistic species like wolves, which so far had no history of their presence in the area, have started to invade the park area and the traditional species like hangul, musk deer etc, which used to be a common feature of the park, are now, slowly but surely, becoming a history.

As such, this is the time we need to realize that unlike wild animal species we are so flexible that we can survive practically anywhere on Earth, and perhaps other places as well, but, wild animals generally prefer human-free habitat. While as on the other hand they are psychologically so similar to us, we have very little excuse to treat them differently, if we deserve to be unmolested in our homes, so do they.

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