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24th July '2014
The stinking “Paradise”!
 

Almost all the Kashmir Tourism literature carries the above couplet of a poet in Mughal period to affirm the fact that Kashmir truly is a Paradise on Earth. Most of the foreign writers have given different titles and names to Kashmir in praise of its natural beauty. The Eden of the East, the Venice of the East, the Switzerland of Asia and so on. In fact, keeping in view the environment and its wild nature, those places should have been compared to Kashmir than vice versa as it surpasses all places in the gifts of Nature. In natural beauty Kashmir has no comparison. However, that may now be a story of the past, true only in travelogues of yore and the history books. At the present moment we are living in what can be called realistically, a stinking Paradise!

 

The first stink is the foul marshy stench coming out of the heart of the city, the Dal Lake. The Lake is virtually in throes of death. The house-boat on the Lake was supposed to be the number one attraction of Kashmir. In fact, it was a USP (unique selling proposition) especially to European and American travellers. A palace floating on water which used to be so clear that one could see the fish dancing below among the marine plants. It was really crystal clear water. Not now. Not only is the water turbid in places but it has become marshy with abundant growth of weeds. The Lake has been virtually choked by the weeds at many places especially in the back areas. It may soon turn into a stinking marsh. Along the boulevard it is being kept clear of the weeds for “Tourists” but deep inside where 50,000 people live on islands, the situation is not good! Same is the fate of Wular Lake once considered to be the second largest fresh water lake in Asia. The River Jhelum which has been a witness to Kashmir’s 5,000 year history has become a sewer and a drain with all the muck flowing into it directly.

The lush green forests have been massacred in cold blood. A virtual genocide of the young trees has been committed in many places by timber mafia in collusion with the authorities. It is heart rending to see the stalks of young pines in almost all forest areas. The material greed of these people may leave Kashmir a desert for the future generation. Almost everywhere the mountains have been disfigured by stone quarrying. In brief, the Environment supposed to be Kashmir’s main wealth has gone for a toss.

 

As regards the engineering and the civic side, the less said the better. Pot-holed roads, with manholes below the road level, defunct and choked drains, electric lines with poles at many places having meshes of service lines, road dividers of tin sheets, pieces of wire and broken plastic poles all reflect on the condition of the people responsible for these services. Garbage dumps in the open on main roads posing a challenge to the under-staffed and ill-equipped Municipal Corporation. One fails to understand how can the government expect an organisation designed to look after a city of a hundred thousand people in forties cater to a Metropolis with over million and a half population spread over an area more than 36 kilometres across? They are utterly understaffed, ill equipped and short of funds and face a miserable situation in winter after a heavy snowfall.

 

The City of the Sun founded almost 2,000 years back is bursting at the seams. The worst menace it faces is the hordes upon hordes of stray dogs. Some people under the garb of being animal lovers have virtually turned Kashmir into a Paradise for dogs! Hundreds including children have been bitten. Hordes of stray dogs, some quite ferocious roam the streets of the city during night relieving the security forces of night patrol duty. No one can dare come out during night and escape these ferocious hordes. Huge plans have been made for sterilization of dogs which is considered to be humane way of reducing their population. These plans are nothing but devious schemes to make money and involve some high ups also. Wildlife Act has a provision to deal with wild animals like bear and leopards threatening human life. These are declared vermin or man-eaters and officially killed. In fact, if a wild animal harms a human being, he is supposed to be treated and compensated by the department. No such provision in regard to dogs!

 

Coming to the tourism aspect of the Paradise, the resorts of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg have been converted into urban centres with concrete buildings and mushroom growth of hotels, shops and so on. There is garbage and muck everywhere. No one really goes to these resorts to enjoy nature. The most unfortunate part is that we have ourselves converted this Paradise on Earth into a stinking hell by our greed. It is time for the Tourism Department to change its slogan and say welcome to a Stinking “Paradise”!

 
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