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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alternative Transportation

Ayaz says that smart traffic management requires diversity and we need to be creative. Shafat responds

(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 47, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.

Mr. Shafat Ahmed Reshi, 46, was born in Brane, Nishat, Srinagar. He completed his basic schooling from Shaheen Public School, Srinagar, and his advanced schooling from MPML Higher Secondary School, Srinagar. He completed his diploma in civil engineering from the J&K Government Polytechnic, Srinagar, and a planning diploma in Town and Country Planning from the Central Institute of Tecchnology, Chennai. He is employed in the State Roads & Buildings Department in town planning organization. He works on traffic management issues. Highly conscious about preserving Kashmir's environment, Mr. Reshi is a member of the "Tree Talk Campaign" and "Green Kasheer.")

The Pros and Cons of Water Transport

Kashmir valley has seen a huge rise in the number of vehicles in a quick time while the roads, which are now being worked upon and widened, are mostly in the same condition as several decades ago. As a result, traffic jams and, thus, inconvenience to masses remain inevitable fact of life and the absence of any relevant alternative, in the proverbial sense, adds insult to the injury.

As per the reports, more than 70 thousand vehicles are added to the transport flat in the valley, every year, while the roads are neither widened nor constructed in the same ratio. As of now, nine lakh vehicles, including passenger and load carriers are plying on roads in the state and, on the other hand, roads are subject to encroachments almost everywhere. People involved in this encroachment are, unfortunately, enjoying some sort of silent consent for this illegal act as no authority is coming forward to evacuate them or take some strong action against them.

Though the issue should never be marginalized to the official action alone, the civil society too must share the responsibility. Having said so, the absence of civil initiatives should, in no way, be taken as a license, by the authorities, for doing nothing as the issue is of common interest of the people of the state.

The authorities have no excuse for not going ahead with a strong and sustained campaign to make sure that the roads, whatever we have, are fully available for the transport and no encroachers are allowed to take liberty with the public property. They have to act as per the law of the land-something they are being paid for.

Formation of a viable and futuristic traffic management policy must be devised to offer some respite to the people of this valley who are subjected to an everyday traffic jam and great inconvenience. The construction of new roads, development of existing roads, identification of parking places, number of vehicles of various modes, identification of alternate transport ways etc, should be covered under this policy. Knowing that we have a limited train route and there is no other alternate transport route, the authorities must take all such limitations into consideration and come up with a viable policy for the expediency of masses.

Most of our youngsters may not know that Kashmir valley, particularly the city, was once known as the ‘Venice of East’, a title offered to it for its bountiful water brooks, streams and rivers which ran through the city connecting almost every part of it. The scenario has, ofcourse, changed and we have successfully destroyed most of the water marvels, tough the title remains!

Now that the government has realized that we could utilize water transport to ease the traffic mess on our roads, the idea appears good and equally amusing as well. Though we have river Jehlum which can be a huge route when it comes to connecting various districts, most of our water channels have vanished. Hoping against hope, the water transport, if at all perceived in an appropriate manner and executed properly, people might actually see a little betterment in the overall transportation scenario.

Like road, water transport has been around for thousands of years. The first kinds of water transport were probably some sorts of canoes cut out from tree trunks. Thought this type of transport is, stupidly, considered as the slow transport in an age of motor boats and engine oriented houseboats which can row at a relatively higher speed, it can be of great significance for the masses. Above all it is something, we are historically used to.

Khanabal to Khadanyar- a well known water route is still used, though ironically, in phrases alone in Kashmir, one must see the glimpses of the famousness of such a way of transportation in Major T.R. Swinbure’s book ‘A Holiday in the Happy Valley’ who has given an interesting account of the position and usage of water transport in the valley. He has visited the valley in 1906 A.D. and till that the water transport has been the main means of transportation in the valley. He has been a government guest in the valley and has travelled from Srinagar to Bijbehara in a boat. “The upper reaches of Jhelum are not widely or excitingly lovely. The narrowed waters like sweet Thames, run softly between quiet British banks, willow veiled……… It was well into the evening and the sun had just set, throwing a glorious rosy flush over the snows which surrounded the Lidder Valley, when we came to the picturesque bridge which crosses the stream at Bejbehara. The scene here was charming—a grand festa or religious Tamasha being toward, the whole river was swarming with boats—great doungas…… large shikaras darted in and out…….” He narrates.

The recent announcement by government authorities to start water transport initially from Panthchowk to Qamarwari, in Srinagar, is seen as a right initiative, although a little late. Such a means of transportation can be cheap and viable for the masses who would definitely prefer to row-in in a boat instead of boarding a bus or a Sumo.

If tackled and initiated with innovative mind, this mode of transportation will surely bring a new dimension to our traffic scenario and would also create employment opportunities to so many unemployed persons besides adding to the tourist attractions. Tourists would definitely like this type of transport and would, gradually, push the government to think about bringing the Jhelum river to its original shape and pristine glory.

But there are challenges to this type of transportation as well and the authorities, when drafting the policy, must be mindful of all such issues. We have already polluted our water bodies and rivers to a serious extent and going by the set standards, we may ruin the remaining water bodies as well. Steps should be taken to asses and analyze all sorts of mechanisms that would be involved in initiating water transport. It demands great care and sensitivity to make use of the gifts of nature and preserve them as well.


Dear Editor,
  • With reference to a news item in your esteemed paper that of Jhulem transport or water transport as an alternative means of transportation in Srinagar city is not only a great idea but solution to number of problems like frequent traffic jams, bad traffic mess , pollution both air as well as noise, wastage of time and energy .
  • This is the best idea which has been put in place by the administration with the help of some private agencies as part of rapid transport system (R T S) in the city of Srinagar which is witnessing worst example of traffic engineering in the whole world ,. .It not only provides an environment friendly transport but link us with our age old heritage and culture also. Besides it will ease pressers on our roads which are under sized as compared to the population needs.
  • Fifty per cent infrastructure is already in place in the shape of river bank gaths with beautiful ornamental Devri stone work connecting major Mohallas, main markets, major religious places old Khan-Khah and shrines, temples, historical monuments like Mujahid Manzil ,old Secretariat, Zaina Kadal, Budshah Tomb ,Nawa Kadal, women’s college and many more up to veer, which need some minor repairs and cleaning only.
  • This proposal need to be given a final shape to achieve much needed alternative transportation in the valley as proposed by a renowned Transport Planner, Hakeem Ifftikar Ahmed, now Chief Town planner submitted in his proposal report earlier.
  • It will fulfill the purpose of short excursions and local sightseeing to local residents as well as the tourists as was done before. Tourists will definitely like this type of transportation which will provide them a vivid perspective of the historical sites including Shahr-e-Khas and Nager Nager. LOC trade will get a boon when this will be extended to other districts like Sopore and Baramulla to Uri in the west and from Islamabad (Anantnag) in the east in the fore coming phases of extensions. With this, the main life line of Kashmir, THE JEHULM RIVER, will also get some more attention for its preservation, conservation , beautification.
  • Shafat Ahmad Reshi


FAYAZ said...

Alternative Transportation - article authored by Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz is well published. The author has presented the issue in a successful way. Keeping in view the present position of road transport in Kashmir with routine traffic jam for hours together and occurring of road accidents there is a dire need of an alternative route for transportation.Water transport has been in use for centuries in Kashmir during the past and why not now. It will really add to the charm of valley. Well said by the author it is multi-benificial for the valley.

Fayaz Ahmad Shaikh
Srinagar, J&K

FAYAZ said...

Wonderful article.Keeping in view the present position of road transport in Kashmir valley i.e. routine traffic jam for hours together and daily road mishaps, there is a dire need of adopting the old way of transportation in Kashmir -Water transportation . It will not only ease out the problem but will surely add to the charm of valley.Author Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz has rightly said that it is multi benificial for the valley as a whole.