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, November 2, 2013

Slow Death of a Yet Another Water Body in Kashmir

Majeed says that a vast water body once considered as the pride of the city for its crystal clear waters is about to perish

(Dr. Abdul Majeed Kak, 62, 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 completed a novelty ethno-botanical museum with about 600 antique and extinct wooden artifacts of Kashmir that has been created in the Islamia College of Science and Commerce (ICSC), a project supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi. Presently the Ministry of Environment and Foresta of the Government of India, New Delhi, has awarded him a major prestigious research project along with a team of four highly qualified scholars that are working on the impact of anthropogenic activities on Himalayan lakes.)

Khushal Sar: Breathing its Last!

Khushal Sar is within Shehri Khas between Hawal and Zadibal Just 5 km away from Srinagar city.It is demarcated from Gill Sar (another ailing water body) near Gill Kadal. Once Khushal Sar stretched up to Zoonimar, Aali Masjid and was linked up with Anchar Lake. Unfortunately due to negligence of State government and the concerned authorities it has squeezed to its half and the practice is still continued on war footing without any panic or terror. The name of the lake itself refers to most healthy, prismatic, glittering, lustrous and prosperous water body. This vast, alive and thriving water body was considered as the pride of the city for its limpid, crystal clear waters, without contamination and effluents, used as portable water by the locals both for drinking and other domestic purposes. This healthy and flourishing lake was famous for its scenic beauty, cool breeze and picturesque. Lake products were delicious, so tasty and mouthwatering. Fish, Nadru and other lake products were produced in huge quantity. Boats, Shikaras and house boats were present. People both young and adult bathed and swam in the lake for the whole day both in summer and in winter. There used to be great activities in this lake like what we see in present days in the famous Dal Lake. Zadibal Nadru, was highly preferred by the locals. Besides fish and fodder along with other lake products were palatable. The lake was deep and pellucid with no sign of eutrophication or excess weeds. Population surrounding the lake was meager, till Dr. Ali Jan road was constructed by the State Government, obliterating Khushal Sar, erasing most of its part from Idgah and Aali Masjid upto Bahlachipora, Soura side. This was a devastating step which obliterated the overall shape and structure of the lake. Locals started grabbing land from all sides because of the approachable road for filling water and depositing construction material. Constructions on grabbed land started on war footing basis due to lack of surveillance by the concerned authorities and the state government. Sewage and trash from the fast growing population around the lake and innumerable constructions wreaked havoc. All effluents and garbage were directly dumped in it. Polythene and garbage chocked it entirely. Floating and decomposing carcasses are seen everywhere emitting unpleasant odour. This has made the lake a complete cesspool. Noxious weeds Azolla and Alligator grasses are abundantly growing in thick layers, suffocating and eradicating underwater life including fish.

Surrounding areas of the lake like Zadibal, Sazagari pora, Aali Masjid, Saidapora, Donipora, Tengpora, Zoonimar, Mandibal, Batakpore are becoming densely populated and whole of sewage is directly poured in it. Nallah Amir Khan coming from Nigeen and Dal lakes also joins Khushal Sar near Nallabal, supplementing it with all the effluents of its journey through Pukhribal area. Nallah Aamir Khan has also been squeezed from both sides and is reduced to a narrow passage, which too is completely chocked with thick layers of noxious weeds that hinder the free movement of water in these interconnected lakes. It is on record, that tourists in houseboats from Dal and Nageen lakes used to scull through Nalla Aamir Khan into Anchar Lake, via Khushal sar. Today even a small ordinary boat cannot pass through it.

Khushal Sar is a neglected lake without any supervision by the government, neither there is any authority that owns it. It is under the supervision of SMC along with Anchar Lake and Gill Sar Lake. They are totally ignorant about the methods of conservation and maintenance of these water bodies. It is a burden on their shoulders and they are unable to take care of it, with the result influential and wealthy locals are busy in grabbing the water by filling it for the construction of factories, other establishments and also for construction of residential houses resulting in the shrinkage and extinction of this glorious water body. Some locals allege that there is a mutual understanding between some SMC officials and the land grabbers, saying that in the broad day light people fill the lake and are fearlessly constructing houses. No restriction or any action has been initiated against them. The government is sleeping, it should initiate high level enquiry on the number of constructions that have come up around this lake illegally. Normally it is not possible for anyone to undertake construction without getting building permission from the SMC.

Formation of floating islands both from the peripheries and in the centre is one of the severe problems that have totally changed its shape. Observing such a worst and deteriorated condition while exploring the lake, one gets severely suffocated and hurt to see its pathetic condition and irritating smell. SMC officials were apprised many a times about the extinctive condition of this beautiful lake but no attention was paid. Simply vague promises were made that a severe action will be taken against the culprits and the officials involved. Unfortunately no official has ever visited nor has any action been taken. Instead influential people are busy in covering the water at a swift pace. The lake is being filled throughout day and night from Eidgah to Bolachipora, Soura by encroachers while the State Government despite being aware of what is happening around is not willing to go against the bureaucrats who are helping these encroachers to fill this urban lake. Encroachers with the help of Municipality officials have constructed Palaceous houses, shops, automobile workshops, and saw mills.

Government’s slack approach has not only encouraged encroachers but has also given birth to numerous questions regarding the protection of water bodies in the valley. Khushal Sar despite being desiccated is still a wonderful tourist destination. Regarding the deteriorated condition of the lake it seems that government is not at all interested in the safeguard of these precious water bodies. More than two kilometer length of the lake from Eidgah to Bolachipora has been totally grabbed I don’t know as to why the authorities despite being aware of everything are not reacting firmly. On the one hand the government’s promises and claims that water bodies are to be saved at any cost while on the other hand encroachers with the help of corrupt bureaucrats are looting these precious water assets.

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