Pollution Problem in Kashmir
Lack Of Collective Social Responsibility Is A Major Challenge
Recently while going through a newspaper, a write-up caught my attention. It was on how the wetlands of Kashmir are vanishing. The write-up cited how the government’s failure and people’s ignorance is taking a toll on the environment. Environmental experts believe that if immediate action is not taken to address the threatening situation, flash floods, landslides and avalanches may become more frequent in J&K. The change in weather patterns have caused these events to occur frequently over the past few years.
We are aware that the environment in Kashmir has degraded over many years. A number of researches have also been done on the subject. The major water bodies of Kashmir have visibly witnessed degradation. The melting glaciers, the wilting mountain tops, the flood of 2014 are all proof of how our environment has been affected. I spoke to Chief Advisor and Member of Environment Policy Group Srinagar Mr Ajaz Rasool regarding these concerns. Here are excerpts of my interaction with him, in his words.
Environment a Social Responsibility
Kashmir has been bestowed with natural beauty, but we have a very fragile environment. The mountains, forests, higher plains and plains; the social areas where we live; the aquatic environment comprising lakes, rivers and streams – all these are connected with one another. Degradation in one part can cause degradation in another system.
We are mostly concerned about the environment immediately around us in our cities and towns. We seldom think about the forests, mountains. They are far from our sight but we need to realize that they also count.
Villages are not as polluted as our urban areas. Village population is low, plus the villagers still use traditional methods which are less harmful to the environment. In urban areas, garbage is a major source of pollution. People throw it on the street, thinking that the sarkari staff will clean it.
Sadly, most people have no social responsibility towards the environment at large. As a result, solid waste management has become a menace. We do not have sewage treatment facilities holistically for the city. Cities are facing water shortage even though we are surrounded by water bodies. There have been plans, the government has undertaken sector-wise planning, but these plans have never been implemented.
Plans and Master Plans Don’t Work
The master plan has not been followed in letter and spirit. No construction was supposed to take place in green belts. But people constructed houses there, so the government was forced to declare them as residential areas. Nigeen is one such area. Constructions happened because of manipulation, wrong policies and wrong reporting.
We have polluted our environment. For example, the solid waste management for Srinagar is collected at Athsan. The terrible odour there causes problems for locals. The odour travels to SOURA institute and people are raising hue and cry about it. There is hardly any land left for landfills.
Lack Of Proper Drainage System
The treatment of solid waste is an issue. In downtown, even manhole covers have been stolen from the drains. Management and upgradation of infrastructure is not up to mark.
The drains are emptying into our water resources like lakes and streams without any treatment. This has polluted the water bodies. Jehlum, Dal, Nigeen – we are polluting all aquatic resources.
We are facing air pollution too. If you go to Shopian, you will notice air pollution caused by the burning of paddy residue. This has caused glaciers on the south side to melt as compared to glaciers to the north of the valley.
During autumn, the burning of Chinar leaves causes immense pollution in Srinagar. Air pollution is highest in winter due to fossil fuel burning and heavy traffic movement. We have stopped caring about our environment. People, government agencies and environment bodies must come together to prevent pollution and protect our environment. We have to heal what we have broken in our ecosystem.