Amongst the greatest sins

It took millions of years for nature to mould things as we see them today, but it takes mankind a whisker to destroy these marvels. Amongst many things carved by nature and lost to unending human greed, inattention, population outburst, disproportionate economic conditions, wars and urbanization are our forests, fauna, animal and insect species, wetlands, rivers, deserts, plains and even the summits and poles.

The most talked about has been the destruction of forests and with it the loss of wildlife and its aftermath in much discussed ‘climate change’. With loss of forests being a harbinger of climate change every bit of responsibility has been fixed, and every effort made to stop the destruction, though it cannot be done away with due to varied reasons. The destruction I am discussing here is something that I find more deadly, dreadful and deceiving than any other. But first a brief about history.

Nature has, after many evolutionary processes, resulted in the formation of stones. Various forms of stones have come into being including the smaller pebbles and cobbles and the larger ones-the boulders. Nature may have taken millions of years to come up with forests but it also has taken so many years to have these various types of stones done. Their varied shapes and sizes, chiseled feel, multiple patterns, shiny or dull looks is an outcome of nature’s fury or feast. Stones lay buried under certain areas of land or are laying in the carved out rivers, streams and nallahs. At certain places in the valley if we dig few feet we do get these boulders which likely were buried due to some natural phenomenon like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc. They have a reason for being there in the water bodies. Embedded within these stones are various form of aquatic and plant life including insects, fish, lichen and mosses.

Being in abundance in the dugout land they have been used by people for various purposes. Man has utilized them to fortify areas or beautify surrounds. If we see the outer walls of the famed Mughal gardens – Nishat and Shalimar, they are made of these boulders, holding still despite 4 centuries. At many villages and in city outskirts few decades back one could see the individual land being fenced by these stones laying on top of one another. As the population rose and need of expansion arose people have unfortunately started using these stones for various construction purposes. It is ok to have these stones removed from the dugout land and utilize them for your construction, landscape, filling plinths, sideways, lawns, ponds, arch and other things, but it is disheartening to take them out in truck fills from various streams, rivers and nallahs. This is a sin of immense proportion for which Allah is going to take us to task. Just 2 decades back all around the valley we had the streams and rivers full of these boulders lending beauty and elegance to these gushing and bubbling water bodies. Just in 2 decades all these boulders are lost to the greed of a handful with helpless authorities watching.

Our valley is covered with snow, high up in mountains which melts to form lakes, streams, falls and rivers and the water in its course brazes, kisses and bruises the land, landscapes, mountains, plains and many a stone. And along with it brings the silt and sand that whisks along the course to ultimately lay at the beds of the river, lake and any of its paths. The silt in due course of time hinders the movement of river as well as may become a reason for floods. The rivers need to be de-silted and the silt and sand ultimately finds its use in one of the most important aspects of development which is the construction. As part of the cleanup of the rivers as well as an earning, the authorities give permission to various agencies/people for de-silting. This could be licensed or even done unlawfully (though rare nowadays). And in the name and garb of de-silting we take something more than what the permission is for – the boulders. It is so distressing to see the rivers being robbed of their due and see these marvels of nature being laid for something unnecessary.

The denudation of these water bodies has let them be like drains with their natural beauty lost, aquatic life hampered. Just few years back one could see fish in these streams, but now that is not the case. Scientifically these boulders also would have been a deterrent in the rapid flow of water especially in the days of heavy rains or a cloud burst. But alas we have let the water flow free from the mountains and rush nonstop into the main river Jhelum and hence the reason that in 2 days it gets overfilled and the fear of floods looms high within a day or two of heavy rains in the valley.

For stopping the forest mafia from sacrilege of trees, the authorities formulated and invoked the now infamous PSA to stop the plunder, the same must be applied to anyone who is found removing these precious stones from the beds in the name of de-silting. Just like the strict laws on many illegal practices, the person involved in such an act, those who are abetting it, and even using these stones should all be held responsible and dealt with by the authorities.

Fellow Kashmiris, what we need to ponder is that we can plant a tree/s to raise the forest/s again, but we cannot manufacture these boulders which are a miracle from God.  I am sure that sooner or later the authorities will have the tenders floated for these very rivers/streams to be filled by these very round pebbles, stones, boulders.