Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Disappearing Forests


Naveed points to a serious issue that is not only depriving Kashmir of its assets but also its future ecological balance

(Mr. Naveed Qazi, 23, did his schooling from Burn Hall School and Tyndale Biscoe, and eventually graduated in Commerce from the University of Kashmir. Naveed is a blogger and activist from Kashmir, and head of intellectual activism group, Insights: Kashmir. His blogs have been published on local and international journals like Open Democracy UK, The Nation, Pakistan and Muslim Institute, London. Naveed lives in Srinagar, and writes on current affairs, politics and society.)

Kashmir’s Prospering Timber Mafia Opportunism sometimes can be a dangerous thing. Kashmir is witnessing timber smuggling phenomenon on a grand scale. Heinous crime of murder was committed last year at Sukhnag forest range in Arizal that were intended to revolutionize this malicious practice. Guardian, the English newspaper, did a report on this in 2010. They interviewed many intellectuals, villagers in Kharg and Pir Panjal mountains, and came to a conclusion that smuggling industry has flourished by making parallels with the licensed wood available.

The reasons seem to be corruption from bureaucrats and wealthy merchants, which isn’t news to anyone. Corruption has been a regular practice in the administrative chambers, irrespective of the fact that every mainstream political party promises to end it. Therefore, if any government or members of the state legislature are seriously interested about sustainability of our flora and fauna, they should identify these perpetrators who are allowing this practice to happen, through local sources.

Illegal tree felling in Kashmir has induced landslides, which is natural occurrence after deforestation. Smugglers have even used political unrest to conceal this black market trade. There seems to be a clear problem of less forest guard manpower, and no proper infrastructure. A previous report on this matter had suggested that Kokernag residents are ascertaining that there is a political endorsement, police and forest department influence on these activities. If smugglers have any sort of backing, they will use it to their fullest leverages. Therefore, it is the role of state, environmental activists, and most importantly, the help of common people to deal with this malicious activity.

There also have been recent claims through reports that illegal timber smuggling is running unabated at Zchamni Patri, Hurpur forest enclosure. The locals have accused that felled logs are passing through check points without any hassles. It seems that a full-fledged land mafia is going on. This clearly indicates that some initiatives run by authorities to convert local timber smugglers, who have expressed to forbid the practice, into tourist guides is not being productively implemented because the timber smuggling activity is still going on.

There also have been initiatives put forward by the state government to arm Forest Protection Force (FPF) with sophisticated weapons. This move won’t be effective unless and until there is a proper training given to them. Co-ordination with the J&K Police, effective forest patrolling, gathering of local intelligence and increase in the installment of jungle observatory posts also seems vital. More local people should be recruited for the protection of our forests. Liberalizing the import of timber is another effective way of balancing the demand of wood inside Kashmir. Government should also encourage a massive campaign in growing tree saplings in areas that were previously forests, so that we can renovate them once again for the future. The role of environmental consultants in educating local villagers can also help through providing specialized knowledge regarding the aftermaths of environmental degradation.

Timber smuggling is ethically improper, and why should anyone allow it to prosper at the cost of environment? Imagine the world renowned and picturesque Kashmir, its lush green meadows, forests lands, our ‘green gold’ converting into barren like spaces. Some parts of Kashmiri forests are already under this process, by becoming extinct from the verdure of green foliages and wildlife.

We must remember the old famous adage of our great Sufi Saint, Sheikh Noor ud Din Wali (RA) "Ann poshi teli yeli wann poshi" (Food will last as long as forests last). Doesn’t this hold true today, even under scientific or social considerations? Why should this phrase be only limited to rhetorical discussions, when there is no real implementation of this rewarding guidance? Let’s think of the consequences and act before it’s too late.

1 comment:

Anuja said...

Dear Naveed,
I found your article on an arbitrary search on the timber mafia in Kashmir. I went ahead and took the liberty of reading a few other articles that you've written. I would like to have a full length discussion with you on a couple of things since there is quite a bit I could get to know. It'd be great if I could have your mailing address so I can write to you.

Thanks,
Anuja