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, June 9, 2012

An Irretrievable Loss Both in Historical and Ecological Terms

Dr. Kundangar says that measurements recorded in our historical accounts give an idea of the loss regarding a disappearing water reservoir named Dal

(Dr. Mohammad Rashid-ud-din Kundangar, 65, was born in Srinagar. He completed his Masters degree in Botany, and Doctoral/Postdoctoral degree in Hydrobiology through the University of Kashmir. He served as a lecturer in Botany and Head of the Hydrobiology Research laboratory or about 25 years. Prof. Kundangar has about hundred research publications to his credit and has been actively involved in environmental studies with special reference to aquatic resources of the J&K State. He is the approved research guide of University of Kashmir, Barkatullah University, Bhopal, University of Roorkee and has supervised a number of M Phil candidates and PhD scholars. He has been the Chief Investigator of various state and centrally sponsored minor and major research projects. He was a founder Director Research & Development, J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, and preceding retirement from the government service served as Principal of the Degree College. Dr Kundangar is the author of a number of books and is the Dean of Academics and the Head of the Department of Lake Sciences and Water Management in the SSM College of Engineering, the only privately run engineering institute in the valley. Dr Kundangar has been the consultant ecologist for various J&K government departments and a member of the Wetland Committee set up by Government of India. He has attended number of National and International conferences and toured various Asian and European countries.)

Squeezing Dal Lake - Historical Perspective

According to Drew (1875) the Dal Lake measured five miles from north to south and two miles from east to west. Hussan (1833) described that the Dal Lake measured approximately three miles long from Gagribal to Telbal and nearly two miles wide from Khawjayarbal 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 its width two and a half miles. The author reported that the lake was becoming shallower. Stein (1899) confirmed the dimensions reported earlier by Lawrence and gave maximum depth of the lake as thirty feet. In 1931 Mukerjee reported the deepest part of Dal lake about twenty feet. As per the Enex Consortium New Zealand (1978) the total area of the lake was twenty one square kilometers, out of which open water area was 12.1 Sq. Km. Vass and Zutshi (1979) reported that the total open water area of the lake 11.75 Sq. Km and estimated total volume of the four basins of the lake as 9.83x106 m. Nigeen was found to be the deepest part with maximum depth of 6 metres. Kango and Fotedar (1982) reported that the area of Dal lake shrunk from 23.4 Sq.Km to 13.82 Sq Km during 118 years. Zutshi and Kundangar (1983) on the basis of maps and surveys of the lake by Montogmerie (1856-60) and comparing the same with the latest dimensions reported that the open water area of the Dal lake as 10.56 Sq.Km. According to latest surveys carried out by the J &K Revenue Department the Total area of the Dal and Nigeen lake are estimated to be 50432 Kanals of which 3922 Kanals are open waters and 10206 Kanals land mass.

The famous king of Kashmir Zainul-Abidin popularly known as Budshah, who ruled Kashmir during 1420-1470 AD used the lake for recreational purposes and beautified its surroundings. The importance of the lake as a tourist and recreational spot therefore is more than five centuries old. Hasssan Khuihami, the celebrated historian of Kashmir reported the laying of floating gardens, islands for cultivation of vegetables in the lake, however, the lake waters were said to be wholesome and calm with restricted zones for Nadroo cultivation. According to the notable historian the SONALANK island (presently 3-chinari) in the Bod Dal basin in front of Hazratbal was constructed by Sultan Zainul-Abidin with three storey building as a Royal Palace, which according to author fell down by an earthquake. During Mughal period a sight seeing tower was also built on the island. Sultan Hassan Shah (1475-1478 AD) built an another island called RUPALANK (presently Char-chinari) but its building was destroyed during Sikh period. During 1771-1774 AD, the governor of Kashmir Ameer Khan renovated the Sonalank and drew the lake water to the Chinar tree and into the garden of the building through Persian wheel. Hassan also states that the waters of the Dal lake would flow into the river Jhelum near Habba-Kadal, It was again King Zainul-Abidin who closed the outflow at Habba Kadal and instead dug out the Mar canal (Nalla Mar) inside the city allowing thereby the flow of the lake water through the canal towards Achan. Prior to it an intervention is also observed in 1413AD by Sultan Sikander who constructed a strong bund upon the Dal Lake from Nayidyar, Rainawari to Nishat bagh along with six bridges viz; Choudhry Kadal, Doodpathri Kadal, Tulkhan Kadal, Gani Kadal, Oont Kadal and Nishat Kadal (out of these the last two are vanished, only remains of oont Kadal could be seen even today). Saif Khan, the governor of Kashmir who ruled the valley twice i.e., 1647AD to 1667AD and 1668 AD to 1771 AD during the reign of Aurangzeb Alamgir built another bund from Khawjayarbal to Ashaibagh on Suderkhun ( now known as Nigeen lake).Consequently the Dal lake was divided into three parts viz. Bod Dal (in front of Hazratbal), Lokut Dal (expanse from Shankryacahria to Nishatbagh) and Suderkhun (situated in front of Kohimaran hillock).This was the beginning of the changes in the flow pattern of the lake water which continues till date. The large tracts of stagnant waters along the inshore areas were also created.

During the current century Dal lake incursions were at its peak and the same resulted in far reaching changes to its banks and also in the catchment. Two additional islands were built which further obstructed the water movements. A road namely Boulevard was laid along the south-west part to improve communication which separated a large part of the lake creating marshy area along the fringes of Zabarwan Mountains. This marshy land was gradually reclaimed and developed into huge commercial complexes. On the government side blunders started in late sixties and early seventies by closure of Nalla Mar rendering Brari-numbal to a cesspool and followed by late eighties when two huge complexes, one of Centaur lake view hotel and another that of Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre were constructed at the lake fringe. The small bund serving an approach road to Kabooter Khana was dismantled. It was in this era not only mushrooming of hotels and commercial complexes were encouraged all along the boulevard road but a mad rush of people was observed to settle down in the immediate catchment of Dal lake and Nigeen lake. New settlements thus came into existence throwing all the norms and plans to wind. It was during this period another road from Nishat Bagh to Nassem Bagh as an extension to existing Boulevard known as Northern foreshore road was constructed. This 5 Km long road is significant as it was constructed with an expenditure of more than Rs. six crores i.e., each kilometer of the road has consumed about more than Rs. one crore. Another road called Western foreshore road from Dalgate to Hazratbal was constructed to ease the traffic congestion and at the expanse of Dal lake but abandoned midway in 1993 as it had attracted huge urbanization along the road alignment. Further a road from Babadem to Barbarshah was also constructed at the cost of Brarinambal lagoon of Dal Lake From 1973 to 1994 it was estimated that the population in and around Dal lake had 100% increase. The recent studies revealed that more than fifty thousand people are living within the lake which includes 42096 souls within hamlets and more than 8000 souls in house boats and doonga boats. The human incursions within the lake too are unabated. Thousands of Kanals of open water areas are converted into floating gardens, Radhs and into land masses every year. .

Although the J&K Lakes and Water Authority have succeeded in retrieving lake areas by dredging out the peripheral land masses, fishermen hemlets near Habak and NFR and artificial parks from Nishat Bagh to Naseem Bagh through suction cutter dredgers besides removal of lily pads and floating gardens. The political affiliations and undue political interference is one of the root causes of the failures of Dal Conservation and biggest hitch to realignment of houseboats and removal of illegal occupations within the lake The realignment of houseboats with stipulated criteria suggested by the Enex team, was a long pending issue seem to be resolved in near future through the intervention of the High Court.

The mention of the recent proposal to widen the Boulevard road by way of Cantilever at the cost of squeezing Dal lake has been shelved for some time, which would have added another incursion to the history the Dal lake. This proposal originated byway of extension of Dalgate road through cantilever at the cost of squeezing the outlet channel of Chunti Khul.

Tail piece: The fragrance from three hundred gardens laid on the periphery of the Dal Lake during the Mughal period would be felt by every visitor of Dal lake for years together and nowadays one could have the foul smell emitting Sewage Treatment Plants around the Dal Lake.

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