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, March 18, 2012

Vanishing Water Bodies

Encroachments are resulting in drying of ponds

The Disappearing Ponds of Kashmir

Srinagar: Thirty years ago, Avend village in the south Kashmir district of Shopian was also called 'Talaab Gaam' because of dozens of fresh water ponds surrounding it. All but one of these ponds have now disappeared because of encroachments and other constructions.

According to the residents of the village, 60 km south of Srinagar, apart from encroachments, government buildings, schools, graveyards and funeral prayer grounds now stand where the ponds once existed.

Villagers say a few influential families encroached on the ponds by dumping mud and debris of old houses to dry them out and build on them.

"It was the helplessness of the villagers before these selfish people and negligence from government side that failed to preserve these ponds," Shabir Ahmad Bhat, a villager, said.

Avend's case is symptomatic of what is happening in many other parts of the Kashmir Valley. But then, it is not that only village ponds have been affected.

"Lakes like Dal, Wular and Anchar are shrinking day by day due to encroachments, let alone the village ponds," Nadeem Parry, a geography student at Kashmir University, said.

Limited land and the drastic population growth - particularly in the last few decades - are the main reasons for drastic change in ecology of villages like Avend.

Why has the government remained silent?

"These ponds fall into the category of barren land which is reserved for rearing of livestock in the villages. Since it is a matter to do with the village, there is nothing the government can do about it," an official confessed.

However, other villagers said the government is looking on as a meek spectator and had failed to preserve these natural endowments.

The water of these ponds were used for crop cultivation in summer when there was a water shortage. The village boys would bathe in the ponds and learn swimming for hours.

During winter, when water in the pipes would freeze for weeks, people used the pond water for domestic purposes, while cattle also drank the same water.

"We had preserved these small ponds in our village to meet the demand of water in times of crisis. Alas, this is no more available to us," said Ghulam Rasool, an elderly resident of the village.

The encroachment of the ponds has also resulted in the disappearance of ducks, which were once abundant in the area.

Today, only one pond, called 'Astan Sar', remains in existence. It is considered pious because it is in close proximity to a shrine in the village.

As usual, there is a counter view to this.

"The people don't use its water as it stinks," said Hilal Ahmad, a teacher.

The villagers have preserved 'Astan Sar' like an archeological site by constructing a wall and iron mesh around it.

"This is the only surviving pond, but it will die very soon as there is no fresh water source connected to this pond. There is also no arrangement for draining out the stale water," said Abdul Gani, an employee of the Public Health Engineering Department.

"These ponds saved the villages many times in the past from drought and fires. Its waters were utilized for agriculture and domestic purposes. But alas! Our ponds became the victims of greedy people," said Abdul Hamid Mir, a businessman of the village.

(Kashmir Times)

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