“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Mubashir wonders if the dying Dal deserves any celebration on the Earth Day

Kashmir: No more a paradise


We breathe polluted air, drink contaminated water, consume harmful pesticide laden vegetables! The valley once called paradise on earth is no more a paradise. The city of Srinagar, summer capital of the state, with its open overflowing manholes, blocked drains, waterlogged roads present a grim picture. With government servants on strike, city has become garbage strewn with loads of garbage staring at your face, at every nook and corner of the city.

During April and May tourists head for Kashmir to escape from scorching summer outside the valley. The main hub of the city is the historical Lal Chowk, which is being given a facelift, to utter annoyance of the commuters and general public, presents the first sight of state in shambles. The facelift could have been deferred to off season had they used a little common sense. The Ghanta Ghar, witness to slogans of azadi, to unfurling of national flag (tiranga) by Murli Manohar joshi is again being repaired. It served as a traffic hindrance but not as a clock tower. Urban redevelopment is largely as a result of our habit to look at our failures, but it would make sense to spare a thought for todays needs. Lal Chowk already was congested and bursting at its seams. Public consent and participation was necessary before initiating beautification of Historical Lal Chowk.

The secretary general of United Nations remarked, our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss. Earth day reminds us about our commitment to the planet earth. On this day, environment conscious world over educate people about the biggest problem confronting our planet i.e. environmental degradation. Air pollution is a major challenge. According to World Health Organisation standards of air quality should not fall below 35 micrograms per cubic meter. With temperatures rising over the past decade, global warming is threatening our existence.The valley, earlier known for its beauty with Dal Lake adorning the city, a cool breeze used to welcome those coming from hot climates, is no more the only destination for the tourists. Denuding forest cover, sharp rise in night temperatures, water bodies being neglected, the world famous lake —-Wullar lake being filled up and converted into a big parking lot speaks volumes about the apathy of State Government. Earlier, we easily blamed the circumstances for the felling of forest trees and loot of green gold, which infact has adorned the drawing rooms of many of our ministers and thick sickened babus.

The government has been very kind to establish a separate department i.e. State Pollution board to contain pollution. The department has given licenses to pollution checking centres to certify that the emission from the vehicle is within the desired levels. The certificates issued by these centres are merely receipts issued for money. There are no convictions. By far the department has miserably failed to check emission of poisonous gases from vehicles and industrial waste from factories. If you are not a golfer and obviously you do not Tee at international golf course, so you are not privileged one who inhales fresh air. If you take a walk around once famous Dal lake, Pungent smell welcomes you and you have a blurred view of The Mahadev. This is primarily due to formation of smog in the atmosphere which indicates increase in carbon monoxide level. This is called photochemical smog. This smog is caused by combustion in cars and airplane engines which produce nitric oxide and release hydrocarbons. Sunlight changes these compounds into OZONE, a chemical agent that harms rubber, injures plants, irritates lungs. The oxidized hydrocarbons give a pungent haze. Green house gases reduce the escape of heat from the planet without blocking rays coming from sun. Because of Green house effect average temperature will rise by 1.4 to 5.6 celisus degree by year 2100. It will radically effect climate patterns and crop production.

Lord May, the President of Royal Society, Britain’s leading scientific institution is not optimistic and says, “And if we do not begin effective action now, it will be much harder to stop the runaway train as it continues to gather momentum.”

With carbon emission levels increasing beyond acceptable levels, choking the air we breathe, noise pollution at its peak with pressure horns being enjoyed with impunity, municipal and industrial effluent —lackadaisical approach on behalf of government and reluctance to take any drastic action has already damaged our ecosystem, that is why some questions need to be answered: Fortunate, as we are,we have a full fledged social forestry Division, how many plant saplings have been planted by this department in Srinagar city? How many hospitals, nursing homes slaughter houses, houseboats have been checked for tackling hospital waste and effluents, and how many have actually been fined? (Pollution Control Board) ; SMC: What is the mechanism for garbage disposal especially non degradable polythene (BANNED) which is still finding way into the city. Hoardings and advertisements will not suffice, it requires action. Forest department Dachigam, some illegal hutments are being constructed in this area, what is department doing?

No need to get alarmed! There is a group of scientists who believe in benefits of warmer climate. It includes experts from field of medicine to agriculture and most of them agree that there is something strange about climate change. Philip Scott, a biogeography professor, “ Cold is nearly always worse for everything—the economy, agriculture, disease and biodiversity.” According to him, times of historical prosperity have often been tied to unusually warm periods, the Medieval period between 1100—1300,in contrast the little Ice age between 1450—1870 was characterized by famines, pandemics and social upheaval. Another study concluded that change in land use made the risk of malaria in Britain highly unlikely. The frightening prospect of sea levels rising caused by melting of polar ice caps, we were warned. The early claim of 1.5 metre rise was falsified by new estimates which put the figure near 20 cm and a fall of 10cm. It is said that global warming affects crops. Prof. Richard Adams, an agriculture economist says if you are a farmer, you see your crops aren’t doing well because of heat, plant a more heat resistant type—human adaptability –often ignored.

Ironically some of the benefits come from Green House gases, which are causing so much of alarm. Global yields of wheat and rice are expected to rise above 18% while yields of Clover a food stuff for grazing animals is set to rise above 36%. Studies however reveal that it is far more expensive to cut greenhouse gases than to pay for adapting to a warm climate.

We will one day wake up to find that once famous Dal lake is no more and city wears a ghost look. On earth day , let us hope my post will win the ear of policy makers and they do some noise.