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, June 24, 2011

Disappearing Forests

The Editorial in the Kashmir Images laments the slow demise of pristine forests in the Kashmir valley

Lest We Regret

The shaving of the jungles and the shrinking of the forest area is a matter of grave concern for a state whose climate is determined by the presence of forests. In that sense, our state ill affords indiscriminate felling of trees in the forests and turning the retrieved area into agricultural or horticultural lands. But unfortunately, for the last two decades there is no respite to our forests from the axes of smugglers. The continuous illegal logging has made this beautiful state loose its sheen and the pristine glaciers are receding at an alarming pace.

Moreover, there seems no halt to this obnoxious activity in the near future. Millions of words are written on the pathetic state of our forests but equally less is done to arrest the trend. Huge chunks of dense forests today look barren lands however the trunks of the felled trees remind one of the thick presence of trees and a whole lot of wildlife once residing therein. Go to anywhere in the state, you will definitely find some portion of the forest land shaven and brought under cultivation of cash crops or left unattended to trigger soil erosion.

In the name of protecting forests government envisaged forest protection force and many people were engaged in the new scheme of things. However, till date none of them have been allotted weapons and ammunition to fight the well organized and ferocious smugglers. The verdant and extremely important forests have been left at the mercy of unarmed forest officials who in most cases are abettors in smuggling. It can be gauged from just seeing the accumulated properties of the forest officials and their life style.

Government may utter tall claims of protecting forests but at the ground level, its performance is almost zero. Or in other words one can say that if there were no government, the pace of cutting the forests would not have been any worse. Question may arise why people on their part are creating market for smugglers? One may ask when a person constructing a house has no option to get timber from the forest department and in some cases 20 to 50 cubic feet are sanctioned per construction, then where from will he get the required timber other than turning to smugglers. Government has not kept wood and timber in sufficient quantity so that the demand is fulfilled from there. Instead those who oil the palms of the officials or are influential by way of their official or unofficial position get timber in plenty. So in other words government is creating a situation where tacitly needy are made to approach smugglers and thereby spelling doom for the lush green forests.

Experts opine that if the current pace of clearing forests goes unabated, the time is not far away when Kashmir along with its pristine and glorious forests will turn into a barren land supporting least species of life. That will be catastrophic for this state as it will not only rob us from our pleasant environs but also break us economically. Lack of forests means enormous soil erosion, flash floods, long spells of draught and many unknown diseases. It is time we take heed of this silent catastrophe that is accumulating only to befall us when we have almost nothing to stop its dangerous effects. The best way to begin with is to keep supply of timber in the forest depots ready for the local consumption so that smugglers find it hard to sell their illicitly gotten timber. At the same time give enough teeth to the forest laws and also arm forest protection personnel with weapons so that they can overpower the smugglers.

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