Monday, June 25, 2012

Kashmir on its own-Environment!

Kashmir is at present beset with all sorts of problems. Nothing seems to work. Nothing is as it should have been ideally given our resources and the environment. How would Kashmir have progressed had it been on its own with absolute freedom of action? The question posed may seem hypothetical or even utopian but one can always imagine what the so called “Paradise on Earth” would have been, had there been genuine developmental activity through honest people. Each sector could have vied with the similar ones abroad especially with same type of climate and environment. Let us begin with environment. There are no two opinions that the biggest culprits in destroying it are we ourselves. The material greed has made us blind to our immediate concerns as well as to posterity. Wanton destruction of our lush green forests;pollution of water bodies and the valley’s lifeline, the River Jhelum; conversion of green paddy land into housing colonies and so on has been done by us on our own or in connivance with outsiders. Added to this greed has been the opportunistic leadership with one point programme of power and material gain. It is rightly said that the people get the rulers they deserve! The best catalyst for the growth of both, the corrupt and the dishonest leadership and a similar lot of people under them, has been the situation of uncertainty. People have followed in letter and spirit the saying “make hay while the “Son” shines”. For decades one has been pinning for the dying Dal Lake. Wullar has suffered the worst fate as it is not directly in the path of the “tourists” for whom everything in Kashmir gets a priority. For some unknown reasons every bit of environment is judged as a tourist attraction. No one comes forward to say that tourists or no tourists, we have to safeguard the environment for our own living. The fate of our lush green forests is pathetic. Young trees have been mowed down like corn or wheat by timber smugglers in connivance with officials, local people and the security forces. Dal has to be saved but at the same time we have to cater to “tourists” by keeping houseboats on it as well as polluting hotels around it. It is reported that under law all construction around the lake has been stopped but one can see in broad daylight dozens of hotels being constructed within less than a kilometre from the lake periphery. Laws are observed more in breach in our part of the world! Dal Lake cannot be saved by bits and pieces. It has to be a time bound all inclusive turnkey project. The Uri Power project, probably the best in the state at the moment, was built by SKANSKA, a Swedish consortium of international agencies. It was completed in time in spite of total turmoil in the valley and withstood 7.5 Richter scale earthquake. Kashmir, if on its own, could also engage a consortium of resourceful top of the line international agencies dealing in various aspects of lake restoration and conservation. They could have been given a turnkey job without any political interference to be completed in a specific time frame. Dal has been dirtied more by politics than by pollutants. It needs a national initiative to engage agencies with plenty of resources if the job is to be completed in a given time frame. A few harvesters or a couple of excavators cannot redeem the highly polluted and encroached Lake. If one proceeds honestly, the population residingaround the Lake and even in it has to be provided means to get rid of their polluting waste products in a fool proof manner. The sewage treatment plants set up need to be of international standards and have to be monitored continuously. The hotels around Dal have either to be closed or provided with individual treatment plants to ensure no pollutants flow into the Lake. Similarly, the house boats have to be provided flexible connections to dispose of their waste water and refuse on the land as is done in some European countries having similar house boats on lakes and rivers. Same is the case with our forests. If one could obtain the services of some Canadian forestry experts both for conservation of our forests and for retrieving fallen wood in deep valleys, there would be no need for forest smugglers to cut the forests next to the population centres. We have enough timber and firewood available in deep valleys which rot in the absence of any dependable modern system of retrieval. The only things we have been able to contribute to our lovely mountains are garbage trails, like the one on the route to the Amarnath cave! One sometimes dreams about the pure lush green forests and lovely mountains. About the clean and serene lakes and rivers that were part of ancient Kashmir. Will we ever see these again? The drastic change in the climate involving erratic snowfall, rains, and sudden wind storms indicates the damage our environment has gone through due to greed, corruption and dirty politics. There is no way of checking it unless Kashmir is on its own and there is honest, sincere, and committed leadership to take bold steps to preserve it. Delhi and Islamabad are least concerned about the fate of Kashmiris. They want to keep the piece of land called Kashmir purely for strategic reasons with or without Kashmiris. Can we redeem our environment? Will this ever happen? It now entirely depends upon the new generation of Kashmiris as the older generations have failed to deliver both for themselves and the posterity!

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