From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Dal and Wular Lake, Indus Water Treaty
Mains level : Green issues in J&K
- Even as Articles 370 and 35A generate considerable heat in Jammu & Kashmir, crucial issues of ecology and environment remain conspicuously ignored by all.
Geopolitical fallouts impacting environment
- Shrinking glaciers tops this list. Through summer these glaciers charge the Valley’s water bodies, like streams and canals used in irrigation and rivers that flow into Pakistan.
- The state also witnesses two of its major lakes — Dal and Wular — become smaller.
I. Shrinking waterbodies
- Dal, the mascot of Kashmir’s famed natural beauty and a major tourist puller, has shrunk around 36 per cent in almost four decades.
- According to a study by Srinagar’s Directorate of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing, it has shrunk to 1,620 hectares in 2008 from 2,547 hectares in 1971.
- Wular, which is the largest fresh water lake in Asia and was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990, is worse than Dal.
- Since 1911, the overall water spread and marsh areas have shrunk by more than 50 per cent.
- The water-holding capacity of the lake that helps prevents floods and drought is fast diminishing.
II. Conversion of farmlands
- Over the past three decades, Kashmir has also witnessed a steady conversion of farmland into ones used for non-agricultural purposes.
- As a result, food grain deficit, which in 1950-51 was 32 per cent, has now shot up to 81.5 per cent.
III. Issue over Indus Water
- Recently, India threatened to stop J&K rivers from entering Pakistan after the Pulwama attack.
- According to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), Pakistan gets water from three J&K rivers — Jhelum, Sindh and Chenab — and India gets the right to completely divert water from Punjab rivers — Satluj, Ravi and Beas.
- Shrinking glaciers threaten to reduce the discharge in J&K rivers, which will reduce the distribution of waters between neighbours.
- If there is less water available to meet J&K needs, even lesser will flow to Pakistan. This may impact the country’s agriculture and its economy.
IV. Issue over Hydropower
- Another related issue is hydro-power generation, again a politically touchy issue.
- Under IWT, the Valley can only generate electricity from run-of-the-river power projects.
- So, the depleting discharge in rivers will mean a progressive decline in generation capacity.
- But, as of now, J&K faces severe shortage of electricity, an irony for a state that exports power to the rest of the country.
- According to an estimate, around 84 per cent of the 3593 megawatt of energy generated in J&K goes to the northern grid and the state buys a chunk of it back for a hefty cost.
Kashmir is in Despair
- The state doesn’t even have an agency to address its water problems as IWT already takes care of the larger issue — the rivers.
- About receding of glaciers, the state can hardly do anything. One of the factors that may be accentuating the shrinkage, apart from climate change, is Amarnath Yatra.
- But regulating pilgrimage to protect the fragile environment is too politically sensitive an issue to be addressed.
Lack of awareness
- J&K faces mass unemployment, an underperforming economy (as the state imports 96 per cent of goods) and dwindling tourism.
- In popular perception, the accent in public discourse on development and environment issues is perceived as a motivated digression from the ongoing secessionist campaign.
- People see these development and environment related issues as secondary to the political issues of existential nature confronting the state.
- Issues like water, power and development are seen as a consequence of the political conflict in and over the state and are hence not considered addressable unless the conflict itself is resolved.
- J&K is important for environmental stability of the subcontinent.
- So the issues of the state’s disappearing water bodies, receding glaciers needs to be openly discussed on their merit unencumbered by the political and religious sensitivities and the interests.
- Neglecting green issues in public discourse and the consequent lack of effective administrative redressal can cost not only J&K but the entire region heavily.