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, September 16, 2012

Material Greed is destroying Our Fresh Water Lakes

Ashraf wonders how long before our ecology will be destroyed for good

(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, 68, was born and raised in Srinagar. He attended the S.P. High School and the S.P College before joining the Regional Engineering College at Naseem Bagh in Civil Engineering. However, he changed his career to adventure sports like mountaineering and skiing, completing his training at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and Gulmarg. He also completed a diploma in French language from the Alliance Fran├žaise in New Delhi. He joined the J&K Tourism Department in 1973, rose to become its Director-General in 1996, and retired in 2003 after 30 years of service. He has been associated with the Adventure Sports at the national level and was recently re-elected as the Vice-President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of adventure sports in India, for two years. To commend his efforts in introducing rescue measures in Kashmir Mountains, he was awarded “Merite-Alpin” by Swiss in a special function in Les Diablerets in 1993. He continues to be a member of the Governing Council of IMF and is also the President of Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering & Hiking Club.)

Death Knell for the Water Bodies!

The most visible sign regarding the health of a water body is the status of the marine life in it. The water is the medium through which the marine life gets its oxygen to live. Without oxygen even the human beings cannot survive. One can live without food and water for some time but without oxygen giving air, one cannot survive even for a couple of minutes! Similarly, the marine life which extracts its oxygen from the water dies if the life sustaining oxygen level goes down in the water. Similar incidents have taken place in many water bodies abroad. Some years back fish had similarly died in Lake Geneva. The death had again been caused by oxygen depletion due to industrial and chemical waste going into the Lake. However, a global consortium of expert companies completely restored the Lake including the marine life in it.
The recent dying of the fish in Nageen Lake is alarming. Many theories have been advanced as the cause of this mass dying of fish. In fact, the concerned departments have been accusing each other of negligence. It would be useful to reproduce some extracts from Wikipedia about this phenomenon. The phenomenon is generally known as the “Fish kill”. “The term fish kill, known also as fish die-off and (in Britain) as fish mortality, is a localized die-off of fish populations which may also be associated with more generalized mortality of aquatic life….Fish kills are often the first visible signs of environmental stress and are usually investigated as a matter of urgency by environmental agencies to determine the cause of the kill. Many fish species have a relatively low tolerance of variations in environmental conditions and their death is often a potent indicator of problems in their environment that may be affecting other animals and plants and may have a direct impact on other uses of the water such as for drinking water production….. A reduction in dissolved oxygen may affect larger specimens more than smaller fish as these may be able to access oxygen richer water at the surface, at least for a short time……Fish kills may result from a variety of causes. Of known causes, fish kills are most frequently caused by pollution from agricultural runoff or bio toxins. Ecologicalhypoxia (oxygen depletion)is one of the most common natural causes of fish kills. The hypoxic event may be brought on by factors such as algae blooms, droughts, high temperature and thermal pollution. Fish kills may also occur due to the presence of disease, agricultural and sewagerunoff …”
Another important factor for oxygen depletion is the Algae Bloom. According to Wikipedia “An algae bloom is the appearance of a large amount of algae or scum floating on the surface of a body of water. Algae blooms are a natural occurrence in nutrient-rich lakes and rivers, though sometimes increased nutrient levels leading to algae blooms are due to fertilizer or animal waste runoff. A few species of algae produce toxins, but most fish kills due to algae bloom are a result of decreased oxygen levels. When the algae die, decomposition uses oxygen in the water that would be available to fish. A fish kill in a lake in Estonia in 2002 was attributed to a combination of algae bloom and high temperatures.When people manage algae blooms in fish ponds, it is recommended that treatments be staggered to avoid too much algae dying at once, which may result in a large drop in oxygen content”.
The case of our water bodies is starkly clear. These have been deliberately polluted by us on our own because of material greed. One recalls the childhood days of going in a Doonga from the River Jhelum to Dal and Nageen Lakes. The waters used to be crystal clear. The fish could be seen running round deep below through the transparent waters. One could also see the weeds flowing like tossed by air down belowthe surface. These were never above the water surface in the main open areas of the water bodies. Those days the population of the city was about two hundred thousand or so. Now it is more than a million and a half. The first thing we did was to choke the water bodies by filling up the channels like Nalla Mar. The moving water was able to take care of itself! Then all the sewage and filth of the areas from Dalgate to Rainawari was allowed to be dumped into the Lakes. Next came the house boats which were not allowed to be permanently moored inside the Lake during the Maharaja’s time. The entire wastage of the boats has been going untreated into the water bodies. The worst culprits are the dozens of hotels which have mushroomed all-round the Lake. Incidentally, in May this year about 500 fish died in the German Lake Eichbaum, a very popular spot for swimmers. Their deaths were attributed to swimmer’s urine. It was reported that too many swimmers urinating in the Lake during swimming increases the phosphate level in water causing the death of fish. Untreated sewage flowing into a water body is a major cause for oxygen depletion. Tourism claimed to be the back bone of Kashmir’s economy has been accelerating the death of these water bodies which were the main potential for attracting these people in the first instance! Added to this are the floating gardens and permanent islands inside the Lakes housing almost 50,000 people.
The Algae Bloom has been in our water bodies now for years. In fact we have had the red bloom as well as Azola spread in many parts. The weeds are now most of the time above the water level and the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority has a tough job in cutting these. As already mentioned indiscriminate cutting can also cause oxygen depletion. In earlier days they used to pull out the weeds from the roots. One had expected that the death of the fish would send alarm signals everywhere. However, unfortunately, this dangerous happening too seems to have been taken in normal tortoise pace by both our civil society and the present rulers. There are no two opinions that the oxygen depletion in a water body is the beginning of its end unless drastic and urgent measures are taken immediately. Unfortunately, having eaten the lotus roots from the same Lakes, we have been put to a deep slumber in all spheres of our day to day living, virtually in a sensory paralysis! Be it the menacing stray dogs, the dumps of garbage, and the fast deteriorating environment. Is somebody going to wake us up from our sensory paralysis or we will perish along with our land and its once beautiful environment? God alone knows!

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