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, October 20, 2013

Leaving Legacy of a Wasteland

Majeed is convinced that our coming generations will soon crave for a drop of water and curse us (the present generation) when they locate our vast natural resources of water only in the books and photographs

(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.)

The Destruction of Gill Sar

One amongst many of the neglected and endangered urban lakes, Gill Sar is just 5 Km away from Srinagar city, in between Soura and Nalabal Nowshehra. Lake “Gill Sar” was once rich in Lotus cultivation (Nelumbium nuciferum) adorning the entire lake. King Zain ul Abidin (Badshah) named this scenic lake as Gul Sar (A lake with numerous lotus flowers; Gul is a Persian name for flowers). This name later on got gradually distorted to “Gill Sar” by illiterate boat men and locals. Lake products like Nadur and fish were in abundance, sustaining whole populations of boatmen. Nudur (lotus rhizome) of this magnificent lake was considered among delicacies. Locally its fruit is called as Pambach, flowers as Pumposh, leaf as Khilwathur and rhizome (vegetative part) which is edible is called as Nadur (drum stick).

Recent exploration of Gill Sar Lake has revealed all those serious threats caused due to human greed and negligence of the state authorities. Unfortunately human population around these lakes increased tremendously; there were no restrictions or prohibition from any quarters. Political conditions in the state were unstable, nobody bothered for laws or Court orders, that made a havoc and mess of Gill sar lake. Lake dwellers depended on free lake products that sustained their life started gradually grabbing land margins for both construction purposes as well for the agricultural production, resulting the drastic anthropogenic activities that resulted ultimately reduction and near extinction of this Lake. Due to the unchecked encroachment and the growth of obnoxious vegetation that infiltrated in these water bodies propelled by sewage from the catchments, Gill sar waters became stagnant and stinking. The pollution have reached to such an alarming level that its waters, fish, Nadru and other products are declared harmful for human consumption. The water deterioration and weed infestation have posed number of problems to the lake dwellers, particularly fishermen and their children. Most of them suffer from waterborne diseases like Amoebiasis, Hepatitis and Gastro- intestinal problems besides skin and eye diseases.

Gill sar is connected to the famous Dal lake and Nageen lake through a watercourse called Nallah Aamir Khan, and from the other side it pours in Khushal sar, which in turn is connected to Anchar lake. All these lakes are called interconnected lakes. Unfortunately human interference has destroyed these water resources for his selfishness and greed. Revenue generating world famous lakes like Dal and Nigeen Lakes are dying because of the severe anthropogenic activities, heavy pressure due to land grabbing and construction of 5-7 star hotels, restaurants, increased number of houseboats and Tourist shikaras, besides formation of floating islands for the cultivation of commercial vegetables. Water supply from Dal and Nageen lakes to Gilisar, Khushalsar and Anchar sar lakes, is gradually ceased and blocked due to formation of floating islands and residential constructions. Scores of springs in all the three lakes also get filled up because of the deposition of filth, garbage etc. Besides Nalla Amir Khan through which water used to flow from Dal and Nageen to Gill sar has been squeezed from both sides, has turned into a narrow stream. It is on records that house boats with tourists used to move from famous Dal Lake to the Anchar Lake through Nallah Aamir khan, Gill Sar, and Khushal sar. Presently even a small boat cannot pass through it. It is chocked by noxious aquatic weeds; piles of polythene, trash and other non degradable items. Three decades before Gill sar water was portable, used by inhabitants for drinking and other domestic purpose. It was crystal clear and hygienic. Presently it has turned poisonous one cannot touch it with naked hands. Two decades before lake was fed by a number of springs, from its adjacent areas, many of them have been filled up and encroached for residential buildings. Presently only a few springs locally called Mukhta Pokhar and famous Vichar Nag springs, all are in pathetic condition over sighted, ignored, covered over and totally hidden by dense aquatic weeds. These springs still are feeding Gill Sar through a canal passing through Nowshera, Channa Mohalla, Renzoo sathu, accumulating all effluents, surface drains, garbage, polythene along with non degradable items and depositing directly in Gill Sar, besides it is fed by its own numerous springs. A bridge named after Gill Sar Lake locally called Gill Kadal separates and differentiates two lakes Gill Sar and Khushal Sar. Area Zoonimar was named by King Zain ul Abidin (Badshah) in his reign after his name. It is also said that Queen “Noor Jehan” used to stay in this area to enjoy the scenic beauty of Gill sar and Khushal sar. Remains of ancient building still exist in Zoonimar area. She used to stay during summer nights to watch natural beauty; reflection of high mountains in the crystal clear water. Gill sar was rich in springs, with cold water in summer and warm water in winter. It is connected to Anchar Lake through Khushal sar, and drains out water from Dal lake and Nageen lakes into it. Lake Anchar also gets water from Ganderbal (River Sind) via Nagbal, Ganderbal and finally joins River Jhelum through Rakhe Shalbugh at Shadipora, Sumbal. These interconnected lakes were good for the economy of the people and the state. They were nature’s best gifts to the valley. Their past was glorious, but their present looks bleak. These lakes were spread over vast areas, but today due to encroachments, they have become cesspools, and resemble small pools. Their water has become poisonous and polluted. Our ancestors kept all these lakes preserved for we people. They were God fearing and eco-friendly, though uneducated, they took care, and preserved them. They were of the view that these natural gifts are for their prosperity. They lived a simple life. Their bathroom and kitchen wastes never went directly dumped in these precious lakes. Now things have changed due to modernization. Encroachments have started on war footing basis, and these lakes have shrunk. All types of wastes through drains and effluents are flowing in them. People living around these water bodies are literate but uneducated as compared to their ancestors. They are selfish and lack aesthetic sense, They are not eco-friendly resulting ultimately purity deterioration and weed infestation, that have ultimately posed number of problems to them and particularly fishermen and their children. Most of them suffer from number of waterborne diseases. Due to increase in water nutrients number of noxious weeds liked Azolla and Alligator grass are growing in thickets. Whole lake looks like a turf with thick boundaries of Alligator grass. No conservation plans have sofar been formulated for these neglected lakes like Gill Sar, Khushal Sar and Anchar sar.

Number of suggestions have been put forth for the restoration measures of some of these urban neglected lakes but the authorities have always paid deaf ear. Strict actions are needed to be taken against influential land grabbers having nexus with Srinagar Municipal Corporation, (SMC) officials, demarcation of the lake may be seriously and immediately undertaken, regular monitoring of water quality bio-diversity changes may be done and publicly published. Drugging for removal of excess aquatic weeds and noxious plants should be undertaken periodically. Diversion of all surface drains and settlement tanks should be constructed; springs that are filled up or encroached should be revived. Still it is the time that the state Government should frame a policy based on beneficial measures for the protection of all our natural resources particularly lakes and other wetlands of Kashmir.

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