Loving Kashmir with Robustness

In my last column I had spoken of my loving for the Kashmir Region with robustness and in which I started my piece thus: “Anybody in the world loves the Kashmir Region for one reason or the other. Every Indian too loves the region for all possible reasons stretching from nature to nationality with all the possible nuances accompanying it. We know for sure that everyone loves to live and live it with healthy body and mind. Life has no meaning in the otherwise case of only living without any healthy feature and scant hope for improvement either. My love for the Kashmir region is one of Love accompanied by all possible Robustness features accompanying love. The recent determined and performance-oriented administrative interventions affected by the Modi-government have added wings to my hope.” This was preceded by a piece on the imperative to evolve a comprehensive development model for the region by appropriate understanding of the contextual realities; this emphasis on a holistic approach to development was centred around the needs for addressing the issues plaguing the Dal Lake.

In this background and in the context of the global development articulations (including the SDG 2030), we must emphasise that any development has to understand the role of the First Nature given by God; how we can sustain our transition over the long run depends on what we do with the Nature we have inherited from God and the past. This is invariably true in the case of the Kashmir region as well. The global concern with climate change is also coupled by similar concerns in the Kashmir region as well. A recent study by scientists from the Kashmir University concludes thus: ”The projected ……. scenarios revealed that the subtropical and temperate climatic zones would expand while the cold desert climate zone is projected to shrink significantly under all the 3 scenarios. The subtropical climatic zone in the south of the study area (Jammu) is projected to protrude into the temperate climatic zone in the Kashmir valley. Similarly, the cold desert zone is projected to be invaded by the temperature zone by the end of the twenty-first century under all the 3 emission scenarios. The projected changes in the climate and climate zones by the end of the twenty-first century would have significant impacts on various sectors in the region which might lead to the redistribution and changes in the composition of vegetation, enhancement of snow depletion and glacier recession, increase in the frequency of climate extremes, changes in streamflows, changes in the faunal and floral biodiversity, plant invasions, changes in agriculture and horticulture productivity, and loss of  hydropower generation, ecosystem services, and impacts on other key economic sectors in the region.” Another study has also found that “[t]he climate of Kashmir Valley has witnessed a different change in climate and climatological variables as compared to the other parts of India. During last few decades the maximum and minimum temperatures of the region have shown no significant increasing or decreasing trends. The amount of rainfall has however shown an increase in quantity during this period.” Further, it has also been found that “[t]he open water surface has shrunk from 89.59 km² in 1911 to 15.73 km² in 2013.”

Thus the environmental challenges are asking for appropriate responses. Fortunately, the general population of the Kashmir region are also conscious of the environmental issues to be faced head on and evolve behavioural responses, induced as well as spontaneous, to address these. A recent report of a journalist on how the citizens are coming forth is interesting here: “It was a cigarette butt that turned Tariq’s life around. Tariq A Patloo remembers the moment like it were yesterday. “I was taking a German tourist through one of our canals,” Patloo said. “He had a smoke but did not throw the cigarette out. ‘It will poison the water’ he remarked and kept it with him.” That incident was the turning point for Patloo. The 50-year-old Hanji (an ethnic community of lake dwellers) took it upon himself to clean the heavily polluted Dal lake in Kashmir. Every other day, he takes his shikara (boat) and collects garbage accumulated on the surface of Dal overnight.”

   Now we know that the scientists are highlighting the environmental issues getting unfolded with increasing intensity in the region and the citizenry are rising with positive responses in this regard. While the technical components can be left to the technocrats, we have to be very clear on what should be the objective and political-economic components of the governance interventions to guide the structural responses. This is important particularly so in the context of the Kashmir region with her decades long disconnect between the government and the governed. True to the global experiences, it was in the background of this disconnect and the shrinking livelihood opportunities that insurgency too flourished; the adverse climate change happened accompanied by reduced earning opportunities. This has been a congenial atmosphere anywhere for any agency to mobilise cadres for anti-state activities. It is because any adverse socio-economic change affects the weaker and poorer sections in a much more serious manner – witness the global COVID19 scene today. It is true in the case of positive socio-economic changes too with the better-off harvesting a larger portion of the benefits of the changes. But the adverse social feeling in this is less in the sense that the positive changes create a widespread expectation of a rising tide lifting up the whole ship.

In this light, the next question relates to what should be the objective of the new response to the climate crisis facing the Kashmir region. Without doubt, it must necessarily be the creation of a Green Transition to the development trajectory being experienced today. Here I would once again emphasise the imperative for thinking in a comprehensive and inclusive way; this also is the only moralistic way of doing. This Green Transition must address the differential issues being faced by the cross-sections of population on Health, Education, and Earning opportunities. In other words, the inequality implications of the development experiences so far should be taken care of in the new model of Green Transition. There have been costs and gains of all the changes having taken place so far, and the burdens and the sharing of these have been very unequal; the issue of justice from the worse off sections of the population has been the greatest victim. In the new designing for transformation with the focus on Green, utmost attention has to be given to who will bear the costs and who will enjoy the benefits. We should also not forget the inter-generational and the gender implications of all these. The Kashmir Region needs an environmental policy possessing the virtues of scientific principles alive to the contextual realities of the region and founded on the robust principles of social justice.