Few weeks back I had a chance to hear union minister Saif-u-din Soz at SKICC. The occasion was related with ecology and environment of the Kashmir organized by some NGOs and other agencies. The minister’s address was other than a routine political one; speaking out of his heart; making pleas for social vigilance of ecosystem of Kashmir. First time I could find in Soz showing real concern for ecology, particularly water bodies and water ways of Kashmir without any hidden political agenda. His complete address was Dal centric and his desperation and defeat regarding its revival was quite visible. One could feel the sense of surrender and his final resort was now people’s vigilance for revival of water bodies and Dal in particular. In his speech every one who is at the helm of affairs of ‘Dal’ revival and who had put in their futile service for restoring the Dal to its past glory was under sharp criticism. Soz sahib was first time thinking and behaving like every Kashmiri has been for last many years on the vital issue of Dal.
Dal is dying its death slowly and steadily; No doubt about it but the unfortunate part of this tragedy is that millions have been spend just to make us believe it will be brought back to its health. This one time fresh water lake has been torn by all without any mercy. Common man, politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, elite all fell upon this virgin water body for past several decades like vultures. Stinking Dal has become trade mark of our post independence miss governance by successive popular governments and portrays our sic and ailing administrative system. Corruption and nepotism has played major role in virtual collapse of Dal and our ignorance towards its health has proved as a catalyst.
The Dal affair has never been handled by the right people, instead every Tom Dick and Harry experimented with their ill conceived ideas and plans in the laboratory of Dal and others with materialism as their sole belief made hay while the Dal was dying. No comprehensive planning technique with modern scientific approach was adopted in Dal conservation and restoration. Dal was politicized like any other vital issues in Kashmir. A brigade of engineers and officers worked at their own will and whim, which Tailor-made short term plans and projects just to suite their own and the pockets of their masters. It became a Behati Ganga where every one washed his dirty hands.
Recently I had a chance to visit interiors of Dal in the vicinity of Miskeen Bagh and Nawpora the scene there was completely like that of Dominique Lapierre’s ‘city of joy’; A big slum. These habitations look as sores on the body of historic Sun City (Srinagar). I firmly believe it needs a diamond will to clear these slum like habitations from the Dal. There was all human and other non degradable waste floating on the stagnant waters of mini ponds carved out of Dal. It was a pathetic scene. One could see all civic amenities other than cleanliness and clean environment in these encroached slum dwellings, there were street lights, telephone facilities and even miniaturized municipal parks duly inaugurated by our political fraternity. If this will be the system of our governance and administration then the results are quite appropriate. As if we lack complete accountability at all levels of administration no one from the LAWDA has bothered to ask these political exploiters why they are making mess of nature’s gift by doling these so called amenities in a notified area. They can never annoy the political higher archy; their masters, facilitators. They can not dear to break that chain of symbiotic coexistence between political bigwigs and corrupt administrative plunderers.
Dal is a jewel embedded in the ecological crown of Kashmir but soon it will be lost and its fairy tales will echo through the torn landscape and raped environ of valley. It is not only Dal that is facing the cruel attitude of its inheritors and masters but other ecological structures and surroundings are subjected to same treatment of ignorance and plunder. Beautiful structure like Dal has enchanting powers and mesmerizing looks so its destruction makes every heart to bleed.
Democracy is the gifted system of governance where people are masters of their own self but defective and corrupted democracy is a curse it pushes the people into the hands of exploiters, looters and plunderers. Neam Hakim khatrai jan. We in the whole subcontinent are victims of these political plunderers in the garb of democrats. Dal got swallowed by these political sharks from the day they took charge after middle of twentieth century. If we take a casual look on the cluster of hotels along boulevard on the banks of Dal, political big wigs, their relatives and cronies are quite visible as owners of these polluting structures. Every water body Chunthkul , Brarinambal , Dal, Anchar, Nageen were virtually allotted to political workers for making Bombay style Jugies and Chawls and making way for mafias, gangsters and drug cartel. The banks of these water bodies where once people could enjoy the mystic powers of water have been turned into cluster of drug and scrap dealing dwellings.
Nalamar , which catered to the navigating and drainage needs of Srinagar city for long was disused by one of the most popular governments giving very odd reasoning. Nalamar would give Srinagar an honour to be the Venice of Asia, every traveler in his travelogue has mentioned about the serpentine Nalamar, its wooden bridge and heritage Kashmiri architecture on its banks.
If we are not able to make corrective measures in our policy now, some present day Mohamad Shah Tagaluk will order conversion of existing Dal into a truck terminus. That is why Soz wooed people particularly the younger generation to work as a vigilant and vibrant force to save the leftovers of Dal. But the million dollar question is whom you want to involve in this vigilance exercise; same old so called elite and their young progeny who had never ventured out of their cozy offices and houses and had their piece of cake in Dal saga; people who pose to be well wishers of heritage of Kashmir sell it for their pleasure and comforts. No! Involve every one, man on street; make him understand about the importance of water bodies in our fragile ecosystem. Make people to know how our economy and our healthy survival are sustained by balanced ecosystem in which water bodies play an important role.
As I earlier said lack of accountability is the major factor for deterioration of Dal and other water bodies. The millions pumped into the ailing Dal have no accounts. Implementing ill conceived projects and paving way for a chain of corrective measures which lead no where had become the sole agenda of Dal managers. The ugly shaped treatment plants pumping units and network of pipes along the periphery of Dal (some of which are abandoned now) tell the real story of Dal management. If our great grand ancestors will bother to visit Dal today they will mistake these plants as mini sugar factories, separating sugar from the sweet waters of Dal. Alas! Instead we had to erect such complicated structures at an enormous cost to separate poison out of Dal waters. This is true vandalism of ecological heritage.