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, April 16, 2012

Disappearing Water Bodies

Majeed and Aadil narrate stories of desecration of Kashmir's ancient landmarks resulting in ever shrinking water bodies

(Dr. Abdul Majeed Kak, 65, was born and in Nowhatta, Srinagar. He received his primary education from the Government Middle School in Nowhatta and his secondary school education from Bagi Dilawar Khan Higher Secondary School in Fateh Kadal. He completed his college education at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. In 1977 he was the first candidate from the University of Kashmir to be selected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the Government of India for a doctoral research scholarship at the university leading to a Ph.D. in Botany in 1980. He is currently the Research Coordinator in the Department of Botany at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. Dr. Kak has over 35 years of teaching experience and research experience of over 25 years. He has received numerous research awards resulting in publication of 70 research papers and has authored two books on Botany. He is presently engaged in promoting and strengthening local and regional museums, a project supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi.)

The Perishing Dal Lake

Restoration and conservation are mere words associated with the world famous Dal Lake. “Preserve this heritage water body for our posterity” is a hollow slogan. What are the steps taken to preserve this unique magnificent water body? Open the internet and go through the “Chronology of the Dal Lake, and see how much money is dumped in it every year, which is beyond our imagination. Mere deweeding or drugging will not save this lake.

It is awful and shocking to read the news that a metallic four-way road is being constructed, extending to Boulevard, which was once upon a time part of the Dal Lake up to the rim of Takhta-e-Sulaiman (Shanker Acharya) hill. Is it not water grabbing? On one hand the locals secretly grab the water from inside the lake and on the other the government openly permits water grabbing of this pearl of Kashmir.

Dal is the backbone of the State. Millions of people in and outside the State are totally dependent on it, either through tourist industry, trade or by the lake products. Presently, whole city population is dependent on it for drinking water. Once a vast lake with crystal clear water Dal is now ailing for the past 4-5 decades. Countless diseases have infected it from all sides. Construction of restaurants and five star hotels by influential and powerful people has destroyed this lake. These influential people even sideline court orders against the construction.

Just hundred and twenty years ago, Drew (1875), measured the lake and recorded that it is five miles from north to south and two miles from east to west. Prominent historian Hassan (1883) also mentioned that Dal Lake measured approximately three miles long from Gagribal to Telbal, and nearly two miles wide from Khawja yarbal to Nishat Bagh. And it may again approximately be ten miles in circumference. Lawrence (1895) estimated the length of the lake to be four miles and width, two and a half miles. Stein (1899) confirmed the dimensions reported earlier by Lawrence and mentioned that maximum depth of the lake is 30 ft. Very recently Enex (1978) mentioned that total area of the Dal Lake was 21 sq. km, out of which open water area of five basins was 12.1 sq. km.

Recent investigations conducted by IIT Roorkee (2000) recorded the lake area to be about 2.48 km in length and 2.0 km in breadth with a maximum depth of 6 m. They also conducted bathymetric survey, mentioning figures. Water area of the Dal was found to be 13.39 sq. km; Nageen Lake was at 0.79 sq. km; small water bodies, 0.82 sq. km; channels, 1.10 sq. km, and floating gardens 2.41sq. km. So the total area was 18.51 sq. km. These reports clearly record that the lake is shrinking from all sides and is also becoming shallower because of heavy siltation through the inflow channels and large scale urbanization within the lake by converting water into land.

Lakes and Waterways Development Authority too has recently (2008-2009) conducted satellite imaginary status showing the deteriorated condition of both Dal and Nageen lakes. It is obvious that this magnificent water body is shrinking day by day, and very soon it will be one more Anchar lake; a completely dead lake. If only 25 ft will be cut to a long stretch of 5 km from Nehru Park to Nishat, imagine how much water area of the lake will be utilized that is approximately 60 kanals. Whole ecosystem of the lake will get deteriorated.

Is it not better to renew the original, oldest road up to the Nehru park? And then onwards up to Nishat the whole land is open and can be used for extension without affecting the lake water. The only other alternative is the digging of a tunnel in the Kohi Sulaiman, as suggested by some senior citizens. That may solve the problem because the government is not keen and courageous enough to touch the influential hoteliers and the properties of bureaucrats.

The Bijbehara Wetland

The younger generation even doesn’t know that there was a wetland called 'Nadeir Sar’

Syed Adil (Greater Kashmir)

Kashmir from times immemorial has been a place known for its rich biodiversity and a distinct ecology. The natural distribution of mountains and plains, forests, lakes, streams, rivers, and karewas makes it a place of that can be called a ‘near perfect environment’. That is why people often call it a heaven on earth.

But recent times have proven to be of great damage to this rich ecology and biodiversity. The chastity of environment has fell prey to a severe assault by the ‘crown of creation’ whether holding an administrative position or a commoner.

The Bijbehara Wetland known as ‘Nadeir Sar’ is one such example of public and administrative hostility towards the ecological richness. This wetland on the outskirts of river Jhelum alongside the Srinagar-Jammu Highway was once a rich source of Nadur and refuge for large number of migratory birds, but is nowhere to be seen now.

The wetland spread over a good area and surrounded by a swamp double the size of it was not only of ecological importance but served a recreational purpose as well. Recalling the past Bashir Ahmad, a local resident of Bijbehara said, “The devotees to the nearby Shiv temple used to enjoy their stay at its banks and used the big aquatic leaves growing in the ‘Nadeir Sar’ to hold the holy meals known as ‘Prashad’”.

Now even the traces of the wetland cannot be seen as a big commercial centre and a Sumo Stand that has replaced it. The filing of the wetland and the surrounding marsh was initiated in 1997 wide government order number DLB/Works/1364/557 of 1997, Dated: 15-11-97 issued by then Director Urban Local Bodies. “This is a case of commercial development at the cost of nature’s beauty and balance. Wetlands are equally important in maintaining the ecology as other geographical entities are,” Nisar Ahmad, a research scholar in Environmental Studies said.

The reasons of such a harsh treatment to the wetland are not clear but it seems to be a case of tussle between people and administration. The authorities blame the people for all this mess who according to them had illegally occupied the ‘Nadeir Sar and the surrounding swamp. “Some influential people had illegally occupied this State land and planted trees all over the place. The government had no other option but to construct a commercial centre to get back the occupied area,” an official of the Municipal Committee Bijbehara said. “Plus the ‘Nadeir Sar occupied only 4-5 kanals of land, the rest of the 10 kanals were marshy that served no purpose at all,” he added.

The people even though admitting the administration’s version of illegal occupation of the swamp by some people blame the government of taking a wrong decision at a critical time. “No doubt there was illegal occupation of the swamp by some people but the authorities could easily have taken the land back without doing any harm to the ‘Nadeir Sar’,” a concerned resident of Bijbehara said. “Even if filling of the swamp was the only way to get back the land but the ‘Nadeir Sar’ could easily have been retained in its original form. The present Commercial complex would provide a scenic look had the wetland been retained in its vicinity,” he added.

The younger generation of Bijbehara even is not aware of what has been done in their locality. “This is quite unfortunate that such damage was done to a site of ecological and recreational importance. I even do not know that there was a wetland here and I feel sorry about that,” a surprised student of Higher Secondary School Bijbehara said.

Though the Shopping complex and the bus stand that became functional in 2003 provide good basic commercial and transportation facilities, but the damage it has done to the ecology cannot be justified. There is no other option for the people and authorities but to feel sorry about what they did.

No comments: