The Other Kashmir Problem
October 2011: When people talk of the 'Kashmir problem' the first thing that comes to mind is terrorism, bloodshed, injustice to humans. But there is another 'Kashmir problem' that has long been ignored - the slow and painful assassination of the famous Dal Lake.
The water of the Dal largely owes its quality to the beautiful, swift-flowing Dagwan river that is a gift of the Dachigam National Park, home of the hangul, one of the world's most endangered deer Cervus elaphus hangulu. It is time that this wild paradise on Earth was recognised for what it is - a wild paradise. No Mughals manicured these verdant surrounds, nor did they install fountains to create its watercourses, no flowers were planted and no animals were caged. Yet, Dachigam's raw beauty outshines every man-made garden designed. It is the lack of appreciation for nature's artistry, which is led by pure function, that leads ignorant decision makers at all levels to 'improve' on nature and try to squeeze more from its basket of offerings than it wishes to give us. Right now, for instance, moves are afoot to encourage cyclists to use the national park as an off-road destination. It's sheer madness for a park whose endangered animals are crying out for isolation, protection and peace. If we want the Dal to live, then let's work to keep the Dagwan river and Dachigam alive. And yes, let's stop treating the Dal like a convenient sewer into which the waste of Srinagar is quietly poured.
In my view the crores of money being poured into Kashmir could best be put to work by guaranteeing employment to every local girl or boy above the age of 18 who is willing to help restore the natural ecosystems of the mountains and water courses of Kashmir.
Imagine the renewed purpose, the benefits to health, the phenomenal rise in tourism, the sheer happiness quotient that would emerge. By flowing with nature's tide we would probably fill Kashmir with the cement of pure purpose. What better gift could we give our children than to bring Hokarsar, Overa, Tanmarg and other fast-degrading havens back to life?
This image of a hangul mother with her fawn was taken by a talented photographer called Pranay Chandra. Sanctuary would like to work with credible individuals/groups in Kashmir to run a photography contest to highlight the wild beauty of his happy valley. Anyone willing to help should write to:
By Bittu Sahgal