Vandals at the gate
Vested interests look set to poach upon Kashmir’s natural resources for personal benefit
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
If there is any term that has been completely hollowed out of its meaning in Kashmir, it is the environment. There is, no doubt, a good deal of media reportage on environmental degradation - and this newspaper has been at the forefront of it - but there is little evidence of the corresponding increase in public consciousness about the same. We have never had a tradition of environmental activists and our NGOs who come a dime by dozen - there are reportedly 5000 of them - can't care less. We have never come across an NGO or an activist standing firmly against a government move or a private initiative that disturbs the ecology. And even when media through its reporting has tried to engineer focus on an issue - like the sustained campaign on Dal by this paper - there is little that has changed on the ground.
Despite the massive investment over the years on its conservation efforts, there is little redeeming difference to the condition of the Dal. Thousands of the trees that were felled on High Court's directive in 2006 are showing all signs of growing back. And they are again enveloping the ugliness of the dingy dwellings which had suddenly become visible showing the extent of the encroachment creeping across the lake from its midst.
However, Dal is not the only water-body which is being relentlessly encroached and polluted out of the map of Kashmir. Wullar doesn't attract even media attention. Unnoticed and unseen, the lake is being hemmed in from all sides. Government doesn't have a formal conservation plan for 'restoring it to its pristine glory', a cliché phrase so fondly used to announce any big bang official projects to save Dal lake. However, what has recently become known is that this utter apathy towards our water bodies is not limited to lakes only. Our fresh water streams, the soul of Kashmir's beauty, are similarly being pushed to extinction. And this callousness towards them isn't only betrayed by the public at large, the government too seems to have become a party to their likely demise.
The reports of the stone crushers being allowed on the Valley's fresh water streams is disturbing to put it mildly. These streams form the soul of Valley's beauty and any move that endangers their survival is criminal. For example, can we think of Pahalgam without Lidder stream, Gulmarg without Ferozpora stream, Duksum without Brengi or the picturesque valleys in north without Arin and Madhumati. The rot begins with the official saviours of the environment, the Environment ministry itself. State Pollution Control Board issues no objection certificates to projects aimed at murdering the environment, ecology and the beauty of this valley with such ease that the very purpose of its existence has been defeated.
The state's Geology and Mining Department in collaboration with the Fisheries Department has denotified almost 50 per cent of the Valley's trout waters and hence thrown these areas open for the extraction of sand, gravel and boulders that too for a meager Rs 3 Crore in revenue. This effectively means a go-ahead for the establishment of the stone crushers close to streams by the politicians or the politically connected who will then be free - or do it on the sly - to lift stone and boulders as raw material.
This will do two things: vandalize the streams, and second, destroy the habitat of the trout, Kashmir’s most delicious fish specially brought from Europe by the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1905 and introduced in the Valley’s streams. Ever since the trout has thrived on the snow-fed waters and become an attraction for the tourists and anglers all over the world. Until late nineties, around 10,000 anglers – a substantial chunk of them high spending foreigners – visited Valley every year to fish in trout streams. Being the only major trout producing state in India, the potential for the export of fish outside the state, preferably to the hotel chains in the country could earn huge revenues for the state. And over and above all this, trout has become an inseparable part of what Kashmir is all about: a place of snow-mantled mountains, hills, meadows and gushing streams, a paradise on earth.
But it is this Kashmir which is under threat, not only by its own people but by the people who are charged with the onerous responsibility of protecting it. The politicians have declared their intention to poach upon the streams for their personal greed and the departments instead of standing in the way are facilitating them. In the instant case, the Department of Fisheries has been at the forefront. The Director of the department who has failed to add a single trout to the fish production in his years at the helm took no time to order the issuance of a No Demand Certificate to a stone crusher on the Arin stream. His “telephonic instructions” forced the immediate officer there to do it. Now the process is on for the establishment of one more crusher on the banks of Lidder in Pahalgam Valley. And given the outrageous lack of concern, the Director Fisheries has exhibited for the upkeep of Valley’s water resources, one can trust him to dutifully issue another NOC soon.
However, the gameplan is bigger. Receiving a go-ahead from the fisheries department, the Department of Geology and Mining has sought tenders for the extraction of sand, gravel and boulders from the streams. Shockingly enough, the tender has sought to denotify 36 streams that are not only the best in the valley but also amount to half of Kashmir’s trout waters. This effectively clears the decks for the setting up of either stone crushers on these streams or auctioning of the stone and boulders to meet the official revenue targets. And unknown to all, the departments will be able to “legally” poach upon the environment, which belongs to us all. Who will stop them?
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Apr 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Apr 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Apr 2011 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OPINION
Inaugurates Youth Club at Handwara
GK NEWS NETWORK
Handwara, Apr 19: The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir S M Sahai on Tuesday advised the youth to use their energy to build their careers and stay away from stone pelting. “I More
- Srinagar City
GK CITY CORRESPONDENT
Srinagar, Apr 18: Responding to public outcry over the dilapidated condition of the floating Post Office in the tourist hub of Dal lake, the authorities many times assured repairs of the houseboat More
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Jammu: Lashing out at the J&K Government for curtailing the Amarnath yatra period by 15 days, VHP today threatened to commence the yatra from June 15 if the Governor failed to “rectify” the decision More
Jammu, Apr 19: The Governor, N N Vohra, in exercise of the powers conferred upon him under section 53 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, has prorogued the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly More
Recovers Rs 35 cr
GK NEWS NETWORK
Jammu, Apr 19: The State Financial Corporation (SFC) has recovered Rs 35 crore during the last 2 years notwithstanding the long spell of unrest in 2010. This, according to an official statement, was More