There is no gain saying that the common people have been cheated by a few self-seekers as long as the general public maintains stunning silence over the issue of its future, survival and prosperity
Fragrance of Ideas
Jammu & Kashmir is a land of natural blessings. This Himalayan treasure land has remained in focus for a long time due to its political history and the issues connected with it. The biggest causality over the last four decades in this treasure land has been its ecology and environment. Terrorism, unfortunately, "substituted" Tourism in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and thus the self-seekers got the opportunity to 'make hay while the sun shines'.
Kashmir valley is a gifted piece of land in the treasure geography of Jammu and Kashmir. There are vivid and candid reports regarding loot of its jungles, misuse of its forest land, encroachment of the banks of its springs and lakes and doing illegal and immoral acts with it's natural resources spread over a large volume of its mountainous, hilly and plain canvas. Some ecological and environmental activists in the valley have been raising this aspect of plunder in their own way over the last three decades in spite of threat to their life. Their voices were gagged perpetually by the vested interests, selfish elements and the self-seekers in government, administration and also in the political spectrum of the valley.
The recent court judgement about the encroachments in the Dal Lake and the issue of illegal houseboats and shikaras in the lake should come as a big relief to all concerned. The old maps available with the government in the 'Mahafizkhana' pertaining to Srinagar city and its environs give us a large picture of the water ways, water resources and water accumulations in and around Srinagar city. What we observe today is that a sizeable portion of these water bodies have been converted into either the commercial or the residential areas.
The tragic observation in this context is that the most effective and beautiful waterway in the form of 'Nallah-Maer' and 'Maer-Wath' well within the Srinagar city have not only been dried up but have been converted into illegal colonies and legal roadways with the help and connivance of the successive governments. This all happened right before our eyes during the last four to five decades. The encroachment and creation of floating gardens in the Dal lake, illegal shikaras and houseboats in the lake and the encroachments of its large banks throughout need certain stringent measures to save the life and health of the precious lake. The court judgement should be an eye-opener regarding the various areas of concern as well in regard to the other big and small lakes like Nigeen, Aanchar, Manasbal, Wular and other mountainous lakes and water bodies.
There is no gain saying that the common people have been cheated by a few self-seekers as long as the general public maintains stunning silence over the issue of its future, survival and prosperity. People have kept themselves busy in creating material prosperity and luxury within their dwellings and homes without an idea that their surroundings are being converted, slowly and steadily, into a hell of concrete on earth. The study shows that twenty percent of woods, water bodies and agricultural fields have evaporated over the last one hundred years in the Kashmir valley due to human transgression. This speed of conversion is a clear hint towards the future ecology and environment in the gifted land that is Kashmir.
The younger generations in the valley, due to the heavy impact of materialism, internet, TV and mobile phones are somewhat oblivious of the facts of life. The surroundings and environment, beauty of nature and our dependence on the natural resources particularly the greenery, lakes, woods and other water resources are, by and large, 'French to them'. The turmoil and mayhem of the last three long decades in the valley have also done their bit to take the younger generations away from the realities of life. A false narrative about life and its socio-political scenario created a farcical and useless ecosystem and virtually everybody fell as a victim of it over all these thirty years.
There is no alternative to the safeguard of our ecology, environment and surroundings regardless of how much money we have accumulated at our personal level. The natural phenomenon, disaster or calamity doesn’t discriminate between the haves and have-nots, influential and uninfluential, city high-ups and the village dwellers. These natural developments don't ask introduction before their sordid arrival. It is time that we initiate a process of introspection, review and reform, and sooner the better.
There are also some plenty important and beautiful natural water bodies in the shape of lakes and springs in the countryside and in the high altitude regions of the valley. Some big and important names, as per the eco-historian of the valley, Utpal Kaul, are Tarsar, Marsar, Sheshnag, Kounsarnag, Gangbal, Hokarsar, Krishenasar, Garudasar, Nundakoel, Vishnusar, Koelasar and the like. Besides their religiosity and the cultural values attached to them, they form an essential ingredient to the geographical zones of their vicinity.
These invaluable assets can't be left to their fate as has been the unfortunate tradition for a long time now. The department of Tourism and Culture has a bounden duty to not only keep a track of these important venues of nature's shower of blessings upon humanity but also protect and promote them with a long term planning. In no case the aspects related to their water quantum, depth, general ecology, water life and vegetation ought to be ignored.
Sometimes governments and administration also indulge in illegal, immoral and illogical activities in their over-enthusiasm to finish a particular thing in order to quell the cry and necessity of the masses. A classic example among a host of such examples in the valley is the fountainhead of River Jehlum (Vitasta) at Vetha-Vatur near Verinag in the Anantnag district. The PHE in collaboration with the Rural Development department has encroached upon the sacred fountainhead of the river here and created a water plant right in the compound of the sacred venue regardless of values, sentiments and the environmental issues connected with it. It is a serious dereliction of the ecological manual and the salt on the injury is that the department claims the whole area as its fiefdom virtually mutilating the thousands of years old tradition and history of the venue.
There are numerous such examples in the valley in the countryside where unfortunately the governments have been the culprits thus encouraging the sin-doers to make similar advances in other such areas. It is silly that the people keep their pain, sentiments, anger and anguish in this regard behind their immediate material priorities. The society can't remain a mute spectator to the ecological and environmental devastation in the gifted land of Kashmir valley, happening right before our eyes, whatever be the cost of rebellion against this devastation.
It is the question of our generations to come and the question of the health and life of our existence as a society that we create awareness in this connection post the Court directions to the government and the administration. "Environment and ecology in our Kashmir valley are no orphans", requires to be proclaimed with vigour and valour and also that there is a paramount need to protect and promote them. We are not supposed to sit silent; Eco-friends, it is your turn now.