Kashmir Indepth

Himalayan Welfare Organization on a mission to save environment 

The environmental scenario specifically in Jammu and Kashmir has been facing the turbulent times since last thirty years. My youthful days in these I have witnessed an atmosphere of chaos and gloom everywhere. But despite all this the wheel of life has moved on. The conflict of Kashmir has impacted the environment adversely the  estimated damage  has been huge in a situation where the rule of law is weakened or eliminated especially in 90s.  Although there is no estimate of the environmental damage where many selfish and self-interested people have done immense damage to the forests for their own benefit, the wildlife has not been spared and even the  fisheries and water bodies had to face same situation. When the turmoil started, in the 90s, the forests of many areas were completely destroyed by selfish people. But it is worth to mention that even in such a situation, the common people here have tried their best to save the forests, ecology and environment.  When situation changed in state, then the self-interested people would stay in the niche in every possible way to fulfill their interest and purpose. Even there is also a section of people who have done so much damage to the ecology and  environment in the name of tourism development The most effected areas are Srinagar, Sonamarg, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Patnitop or Katra, even many have the backing of the governments.  Which is why these people have succeeded to some extent in their intentions and is very unfortunate.
In the last twelve years, we under the banner of Himalayan Welfare Organization-HWO together with like-minded people took steps to save the sensitive environment and ecology of this region, against all odds we had to go through a lot of issues and difficulties, but we continued this cause and somehow we succeeded.  With the support of people and efforts of forest department we have created many new forest areas, an important example of which is circuit road Pahalgam where many forest patches  are being developed which will prove to be a good change for the future. Where we resorted to public interest litigations, even we used public pressure to prevent things better, that were causing so much damage to the environment that were far beyond the thinking and understanding of every human being. The benefit came from holding seminars, symposiums etc  where we created a sensibility and thinking in the minds of common people by holding such events and which is now changing things towards improvement. At the same time, we have introduced a very transformative society, which we have called social trackings, where we have sent a large number of young  to the mountains, pastures and  high altitude lakes, wherever there is litter, garbage, polythene and other pollutants. We have encourage youth, all  this dirt could be brought back from there to the Proper Dumping Yards which has got a great deal and now everyone is trying to follow in their footsteps which is helping to keep the environment clean and tidy to a great extent.
Due to our positive efforts over the years, we have forced the government for  establishment of  the sewage treatment plants- STPs, garbage treatment plants -GTPs  etc.especially in some  tourist, with our better and positive efforts, the entire Amarnath Yatra is known to the people here as Green Yatra.  There has been a lot of change from the government due to our efforts, the authority focused many issues like cleanliness, hygiene and helath. The shrine board and Pahalgam development authority doing their best in these fields even they agree and strengthening our concern, proposal, thought and thinking in the way in environmental conservation as well as the green himalayas movement.In last many years we did alot of efforts due to that the polythene has been completely eliminated or is being tried in many places here for which people from different walks of life are supporting us and supporting in these movements. Because of which all things are moving towards better way.
In spite of all these postive measures that the common people and civil society are taking, but  if there is any shortage that is from government side only.There are some examples like Environmental Policy 2018, which has been stalled since 2018 and has not been implemented till today. Happening – Although in some areas Bio-diversity Management Boards have been set up in 2019,  but their work is not satisfactory, the reason behind this is that the people  who have nothing to do with the environment have been included in these boards.There are a lot of reasons that have caused damage to the environment every time, among them if the environmental protection act-EPA , environmental impact assessment-EIA, development act-DA,compensatory afforestation fund management and planning authority-CAMPA or the other laws and schemes used on better way and enforced then the environmental conservation and  ecological balance will be saved to a great extent. The government should play a better and positive  role here, only then can things get better.

By Mushtaq Pahalgami,Environmental Activist,Founder and President: Himalayan Welfare Organization-HWOEmail: mushtaqpahalgami786@gmail.com

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