Amidst the controversies over terrorism and jurisdiction, lies the soul-soothing beauty of this land. Underneath the ugly monstrous head of politics, are fragile limbs of nature crumbled to the core.
Pride or concern, as any Indian today might feel upon sensing this word. Kashmir is simply one of the most ironical words in the world. Where on one hand, engrossing captivities of mother earth are a feast to the eye and relief to the soul; the same is shamed over myriad instances of greed-borne blunders. While Kashmir is still called ‘The Paradise On Earth’, it is deplorable to see it losing its shine owing to the ignorant breed of ours.
Its valleys like the eyelids bowing in grace, lake like the naive smile, snow pellets adorning it like the ‘bindiya’ on the forehead, and its dense forest cover like a beautiful braid; Kashmir’s beauty can be subtly compared to that of a newly wed bride.
Sadly, this bride is being ill-treated like million others in the country. Lately, trends have been depressing. The latest reports by Srinagar’s Directorate of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing confirm that the water bodies which remain a major reason behind the stronghold tourism industry of the state are fast disappearing. The decline is saddening fifty per cent. What worsens the condition is either the ignorance or inability to focus on this important aspect. Caught in the ever-threatening issue of terrorism and the drool for power, politicians have been quite a ManMohan on sensitive issues like this.
The underlying reason for the rampant degradation of the water reserves is due to unorganised and rapid urbanisation which compliments pollution and deforestation followed by siltation. The States Water Mission of Jammu and Kashmir have expressed grave disappointment over the mass exploitation of these traditional synonyms to beauty. More than 9,119 hectares of open water surface and wetland have vanished between 1911 and 2014. This has significantly affected the tourism industry, one which contributes to a note-worthy 15% to the state’s GDP.
As the luring lakes convert to landmasses, the former must-see tourist hotspots like the towns of Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Srinagar and Sopore have already begun ebbing away. Tourists are limited with choices; for once-famous hill stations fight tooth and nail for existence, thanks to the human activities and ignorance. Apart from the people of the state, this had severely affected other stakeholders also. The decrements in water covers has had adverse effects on the aquatic habitat as well. Many exotic fish breeds like ramaguran and algaad are now no where to be found.
More importantly, it has ripped many handicrafts-men, propellers, fishermen, boat owners and others dependent on this multi million industry off their livelihood. Fishes and many Men in Kashmir are alike in some senses. They too, literally have oxygen coming from the state’s water reserves. As many as 1.5 lakh Kashmiri(s) are set to starve if the trend continues.
Being mainly a tourist state, the state government has no other choice than to look into this pivotal issue. Given the dependence of the government over water revenue (INR 24.2 crores) and tourism profits, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the very development of the state is approaching a grey end. Recent elections with Ms. Mehbooba Mufti sworn in as the Chief Minister, we wish be a turning point, rather a relieving point from the tyranny of the predecessors.