FARID AHMED ZARGAR
DODA, APR 15: Faced with problems directly related with day to day living such as employment, medical facilities, education, roads et el, the issues pertaining to environment are seldom discussed or even raised by the denizens of Chenab region. Even the World Environment Day on March 24 every year passes off un-noticed. With little or no concerns for the environment Chenab region has lost much of its natural wealth and is experiencing unprecedented dry spells, little rains and snow. The government agencies responsible for safeguarding the environment and creating awareness among the public also have been known to treat environment issues as mere waste of time.
The autocratic rulers of yore had a refined aesthetic sense as compared to present day public servants. This can be illustrated by one single instance of withering away of majestic Chinars in Ramban. The folk tradition informs that Maharaja Gulab Singh at the time of his maiden visit to Kashmir in 1846 AD had ordered planting of Chinars at Ramban, the place described by Captain Bates of the Gazetteer of Kashmir as “much confined”. The Chinars planted on the instructions of the erstwhile ruler of J&K were in their pristine glory till 1990 when new Bas Stand was constructed alongside the three sturdy Chinars. The then civil administration of Ramban and unconcerned residents perhaps unaware of the environmental value of the Chinars allowed them to die an unnatural death. With inauguration of the newly constructed Bus Stand, tea vendors opened their makeshift shops right at the stems of the Chinars. They emptied the leftover of tea cups and dish wash straight at the stems of the trees. Nobody from the civic body or the administration ever restrained them to do so. Two Chinars withered away gradually. Of the three majestic Chinars that were found at the place till 1990, only a diseased one exists at the spot. This last Chinar is also at the verge of extinction due to sheer negligence of the local administration. But no questions are asked.
Despite allotment of dumping sites, the agencies executing four laning of National Highway have no qualms to throw the excavated earth and rock direct in the river and streams flowing below the construction sites. MLA Ramban Neelam Langeth have raised the issue of dumping muck in the water bodies with the executing agencies and local administration many a times. Moreover, the road constructing agencies are playing havoc with the environment by employing gigantic earth moving machines whose operations give rise to landslides in the area.
The unauthorised operations carried out by stone crushers near Doda are posing grave threat to the lives of residents of Babhore village situated right above the spot where the crushers have been installed. Mohd Sadeeq a social activist and State President Bhartiya Manu Samaj Sevak Sanstha J&K has been raising the issue of stone crushers with Doda administration for quite some time. Sadeeq informed Greater Jammu that the entire hill slope right below Babhore village has been indiscriminately dug to quarry stones for the crushers. ” Our vegetable crops, our domestic animals, our children are at the risk due to clouds of dust rising from these stone crushers,” said Mohd Sadeeq and added that even the footpath leading to the Shamshan Ghat on river bank has disappeared in the process of cutting of hill slope. ” Hundreds of trees that were planted by the Social Forestry Division Doda some years ago have also been mowed down in the course of defacing the hill slope,” he said.
” Surprisingly enough, the Doda administration feels helpless to touch the owners of the stone crushers,” said Balvinder Singh Charak resident of Babhore.
Negligence of environmental issues by the government agencies has affected the splendour and beauty of the sprawling Chowgan ground at Ksihtwar. Despite protests by the local social activist, Shakir Sidique, no efforts have been made to restore the meadow that was once the pride of the place.
FARID AHMED ZARGAR