There has been a lot of resentment against the government decision to examine the demand of Army for notifying Bajpathiri forest area in central Budgam district of valley for its use as an artillery firing range. The NCA had taken up this issue in the CMLC in September last. The NCA had sought this notification of Bajpathiry as an alternative range for Tosamaidan. Greater Kashmir gets full credit for reporting about the decision taken in the CMLC. The proposed decision caused much furor among the environmentalists, the members of the civil society and particularly people representing the tourism and health sector.
Bajpathiri is located in the close vicinity of Yusmarg, the famous tourist and hill resort. Every year lakhs of tourists visit this place. The proposed firing range besides having its disastrous impact on the adjacent Thumbri glacier could also extend its adverse effect on the vast forest areas of district Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian. In case the implementation of this proposed firing range at Bajpathri meadow takes place, it would also effect the number of the Zairins who visit the shrines of Chrari Sharief and Pakherpora. The people of Kashmir in general have lot of religious and emotional attachment with these revered shrines.
Since two major water reservoirs and 24 water supply schemes are in and around Bajpathri, the firing range could adversely effect the supply of drinking water to lakhs of people residing in Srinagar and Budgam Districts. The Thumbri Glacier is the original source of the three major rivers like Sukhnag, Nilnag and Doodhganga. The entire water emerging from this Glacier passes through Bajpathri and flows in these rivers.
Bajpathri is as eco-fragile region as any part of the forest area of Kashmir and any such move would be detrimental to the environmental equilibrium and could bring an ecological disaster to Kashmir.
The Kashmir valley is rich with natural beauty and surrounded with range of Himalayan mountains covered with thick forests. This proposal will not only disturb the ecology of the area but would adversely effect its water bodies, wildlife and flora and fauna.
It for the first time, we have witnessed, that all the mainstream as well as the Hurriyat leaders who in one voice raised the objection against this proposal. The people from all walks of life, whether it is civil society, travel agents Association of Kashmir or the persons attached with tourism sector, all are concerned about this move.
It is a good news that on the petition filed by one social activist, the National Green Tribunal has issued notices to MOD and J&K government and sought their response on this issue. We hope the good sense will prevail on the panel which has been appointed to look into the demand of NCA. We hope they exempt not only Bajpathri but the Kashmir valley from being used as a firing range
Abdul Rashid Khan (IPS) is former IGP Rawalpora- Srinagar