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.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Environmental Stonewalling

Ali exposes the bureacrat-politician-brick kiln mafi nexus in Budgam

Budgam Sitting on Environmental Time Bomb?

Syed Ali Safvi (Kashmir Times)

Budgam: Central Kashmir’s Budgam district has also been dubbed as “Buthgam” (village of brick kilns) for its ubiquitous brick kilns that have virtually brought this district on the verge of environmental catastrophe.

In brazen violation of environmental laws and in absence of regulatory guidance, mushrooming growth of brick kilns in the district has been threatening the environment and posing a threat to public health.

According to official sources, at least 17 brick kilns and 27 stone crushers are running in the district without license, making a mockery of the district administration.

As per the official statistics available with Kashmir Times, 10 brick kiln owners have been running their business in Budgam Tehsil without any license for the last several years. These illegal brick kilns include two each at Chandipora, Chitroo Dangarpora, and one each at Ichkoot, Waterwani, Hardu Batapura, Labertal, Putlibagh and Wahabpora.

Similarly, as per the official statistics, seven brick kilns are running illegally in Chadoora tehsil, including three at Rakh Shalina, and one each at Qanoongopora, Beegam, Yari Kalan, and Kathigund.

Pertinently, throwing all environmental norms to the wind, the authorities issued license to 54 brick kilns in a span of three years from 2007 to 2009, which include 31 in Chadoora tehsil, 18 in Beerwah tehsil, and five in Budgam tehsil.

According to official sources, Budgam district has a total of 204 brick kilns. However, unofficial sources place this number between 300 and 350. Significantly, finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s home tehsil - Chrar-e Shraief, and recently carved out tehsil of Khag are the only two tehsils in the district which have been spared by brick kiln mafia.

Environmentalists are concerned about the mushroom growth of brick kilns and stone crushers in the district. Worried, they have warned that unless urgent solutions are prescribed and implemented to keep a check on brick kilns, Budgam may be sitting on an environmental “time bomb”.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Budgam district administration had in April this year, identified 44 brick kilns for “violation of relevant laws and rules”. However, the much-talked about drive against the brick kilns came to a sudden halt, reasons best known to the authorities.

The official statistics further reveals that there are 27 stone crushers functioning without license in the district. Of the 27 illegal stone crushers, 16 are at Lasjan, 10 at Rakhshalina, and one at Shalina.

The unchecked, mushroom growth of brick kilns and stone crushers speaks volumes about the callous attitude of the district administration that has miserably failed to put the brakes ecological vandalism.

According to official sources, a section of government officials are working hand in glove with the brick kiln mafia.

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