Prominent environmentalist Sunita Narain on Monday said the freaky weather in Kashmir is clear indicator of climate change in the Himalayan region and maintained that the pattern may worsen in the coming years.
“There have been 11 cloudbursts in Kashmir during past few months. Now this unusual natural phenomena is becoming ‘normal.’ The frequency of freaky weather is increasing. Clearly, this is an indicator of climate change and has affected fragile eco-system here. People will be deeply impacted by it,” Narain said in her lecture on ‘The imperative of environment management in our climate-risked world’ here. The lecture was organized by Delhi Public School Budgam in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir People’s Empowerment Mission. The audience comprised environmentalists, academics, journalists and students. Narain, who is Director General of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and considered an authority on the subject, said Srinagar is also facing effects of air pollution.
“I have been frequently visiting Srinagar, however this time I could not breathe due to air pollution. Due to increase in air pollution levels, Srinagar is going Delhi way. I observed there are raw roads without sideways for walking besides mismanagement of garbage and absence of proper sewage disposal system. In Delhi, we are fighting for clean air in wake of pollution by cars and people here also need to do it,’ Narain said.
Narain also decried lack of flood management in Kashmir and blamed the government and people for it. “Floods in Srinagar were mainly caused as waterways and channels have been choked. There is also no proper flood management plan,” she said. Elaborating, she said Kashmiris have forgotten that they had an efficient flood management system by way of zones to divert excess waters of Jhelum. “Unfortunately, in past few decades people here have destroyed the natural system.”
She also said the state government has not been able to take measures for flood mitigation. “With freaky weather, there are chances that frequency of floods can increase in Valley. The flood cycle in Kashmir is after every 60 years but it can change to yearly basis if Government doesn’t protect eco-fragile zones. Kashmir does not need separate Master Plans for Srinagar and other districts but a single one taking into consideration looming flood threat.”
Narain, who is also a member of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), in response to a question, said the Board has taken several measures for conservation of environment in Pahalgam and Sonamarg.
“We have reduced helicopter sorties to the cave shrine, put a cap on number of pilgrims this year which was not crossed. Besides, we have also installed two STPs with latest technology. I have been regularly conducting tests of water samples of Lidder in CSE laboratory from last five years and have found considerable reduction in pollution levels near the pilgrimage routes. However, I found that sewage of hutments and hotels on Lidder banks directly flows into it. The JK Pollution Control Board is doing nothing on this,” she said.
On a query about the effects on environment by presence of over six lakh troops in Kashmir, Narain cautiously responded, saying, “I don’t have specific data or studies on it. However, I want to maintain there is an effect on carrying capacity of a place by combined factors.” And she added, “Every issue is politicized in Kashmir.”
Earlier, in the welcome address, former Union Minister of Environment Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, who is the patron of People’s Empowerment Mission, underscored the need of a broader framework to mitigate the effects of climate change and floods in Kashmir. “We all have to join hands to make Kashmir environmentally safe,” Prof Soz said.