CAUTIONS GOVT AGAINST NOTIFYING FRAGILE ZONE FOR TESTING ARTILLERY SHELLS
Expressing apprehension over the testing of artillery shells made of depleted uranium in firing ranges, the civil society on Saturday said that the notification of proposed Bajpathri firing range will severely affect water supply to Srinagar and other areas.
The civil society members under the banner of Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) held a round table meeting of experts to discuss the ramifications of possible notification of Bajpathri firing range.
“It would be biggest environmental challenge faced by Kashmir in the recent times. This is going to be a disaster of epic proportions which will directly impact lakhs of people,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, a retired engineer.
“Two major water reservoirs and 24 water supply schemes are in and around Bajpathri. And all of them will become poisonous due to dispersal of chemicals like lead, sulphur, depleted uranium and other harmful substances used in shells,” he said.
Mushtaq said that three major rivers-Doodhganga, Shalinag and Sukhnag- emerge from the adjacent Thumbri glacier and the entire water passes through Bajpathri. “The water is supplied to people of Budgam, Pulwama and Srinagar and if the Bajpathri firing range goes through, the people will be supplied with poisonous water,” said Mushtaq.
Former Chairman Federation of Chamber of Commerce, Shakil Qallander said that “we have got unconfirmed reports about testing of artillery shells made of depleted uranium in firing ranges of Kashmir.”
“If that is true, it will not only poison our today but our future generations too,” said Qallander.
While detailing the ill-effects of such substances, renowned physician Dr G Q Allaqaband said that first thing to happen will be the increase in cancer rate. “Lead poisoning will be second. And if radioactive pollution is correct, then women will give birth to deformed babies due to the effect,” said Dr Allaqaband.
“In areas around Tosamaidan, KCSDS has found that 50 percent of the population became deaf and many more developed psychiatric problems. Here the proportion will be much more large as many times more people live in the vicinity,” he said.
Dr Allaqaband said that the particulate matter dispersed in the air due to bombardment will enter into lungs of both humans and animals, causing number of diseases.
Asim from Save Yusmarg Movement said that on an average 1.50 lakh cattle graze the meadows in the area which gives livelihood to 6000 families. “The proposed firing range will make them jobless as the area would be out of bounds,” said Asim. “Besides, water bodies like Narkara or Hokersar will become extinct as water flow will become impacted in quality and quantity.”
The proposed firing range will also destroy its tourism potential and even impact the adjacent Yusmarg.
Advocate G N Shaheen said that the possible notification of military movement comes under the purview of United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and they should take a strong notice of the situation.
Chairperson KCSDS, Prof Hameeda Nayeem said that in addition of environmental and economical losses, the Bajpathri has religious value too. “The area was close to our beloved Sheikh-ul-Alam (RA) and now government is planning to get it bombarded. They are simply disregarding our sacred values, which we will never allow to happen,” she said.
Dr Javed Iqbal, a columnist said that “on one hand Government of India advocates for safety of environment at Paris and on the other hand takes steps to destroy the same in Kashmir.”
The KCSDS asked the government to come clean on the reason behind having 11 firing ranges in Kashmir— the highest ever for any state. On the occasion, a resolution was passed cautioning Government to desist from notifying Bajpathri as firing range.