Impact of Conflict on Environment in Kashmir

Impact of Conflict on Environment in Kashmir

The presence of large scale armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir poses a significant threat to the environment of the region. Presence of armed forces inside as well as outside Forests causes severe damage to both flora as well as fauna which ultimately affect the environment of the region. A study published in, “Conservation Biology” shows that out of 34 biodiversity regions in the world, Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmir Himalaya) presently stands highly threatened because of ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan. It is true that the conflict between the two nations consumed many precious human lives. At the same time we cannot deny the fact that this conflict has led to the destruction of regions ecological wealth.

 

Kashmir conflict and Tosamaidan

Tosamaidan is a valley full of meadows surrounded by Pir Panchal ranges, 3 miles in length and 1.5 miles in breadth. It is at a distance of 53 km from Srinagar, coordinates 33°55’4″N   74°29’57″E. Situated in Khag tehsil in District Budgam. It was once labelled as, “death of meadows”. The land of Tosamaidan was leased to the Indian army in the year 1964 for setting off an artillery firing range for 50 years. The lease ended on 14 April 2014. Till 2014, about 3800 kanals of land in Tosamaidan was under control of Indian army. From the mid-1960, this area was used as a firing range by the Artillery regiment of Indian Army. It is true that the firing drills have led to death of precious human lives but at the same time these drills have led to the ecological destruction of the said area. In the name of artillery firing, lakhs of trees were illegally felled in the Tosamaidan. The forests around Tosamaidan are live examples of the greatest victims of the Kashmir conflict. The wildlife has perished from forests of Tosamaidan because of the destruction caused to their habitat. The entire damage in Tosamaidan forests was done during the lease time.

 

Kashmir conflict and Siachen Glaciers

It is evident from the available data that Siachen Glacier has observed a reduction in its area. Reduction in the area of Siachen Glacier occurred due to large continuous shelling, military activities and the dumping of non-biodegradable waste by the military forces that has become the part of the snow on Siachen Glacier. The various studies conducted reveal that, since the presence of armed forces on Siachen glacier, about 216,000 tons of load has been transported there. The deployment of a large number of armed forces at Siachen poses a serious threat to the Glacier. According to the report of the World Glacier Monitoring service (WGMS), Siachen Glacier is melting at an alarming rate and the important reason for its higher melting could be the presence of a large number of armed forces in the Glacier. According to World commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) estimates, on the Indian side alone, over 1 ton of human waste is dropped daily into crevasses. Siachen is continuously polluted by worn out gun barrels, burnt shelters, rotten vegetables, splinters from gun shelling, empty fuel barrels, parachute dropping boards etc. Due to the presence of a large number of armed forces, Siachen has experienced large scale loss of animal biodiversity. Habitats of Brown bears, Ibex, Cranes, Snow leopards and few other species are threatened which has led the World Wide Fund of Nature to designate the entire Tibetan Plateau Steppe, which encompasses the Siachen Glacier as one of the 200 areas, “Critical to observation”.

 

Kashmir conflict and Timber smuggling during 90’s

During the 90,s lakhs of trees were illegally felled in Kashmir valley. In any conflict zone, smugglers enjoy the sympathy of Politicians and several agencies. Same is the case with Kashmir. During the 90’s the majority of timber smugglers were working in collaboration with Indian agencies as well as politicians. In district Bandipora alone, lakhs of Salix trees were illegally felled and then smuggled by government backed gumen. During 1989-90, timber smuggling was used as an occupation by government backed gunmen. These smugglers used to share spoils as donations for both political parties and other agencies. Vast number of forests were vanished in Bandipora district, Anantnag, Doda, Poonch, Rajouri, Budgam, and the Kandi belt. As per estimates, lakhs of Salix trees were illegally felled by government backed gunmen in district Bandipora alone and about 1.50 lakh trees in Doda district.

 

Kashmir conflict and Forest Land

In the name of militancy, security forces had cleared vast tracts of forest land to target rebel taking cover. They also converted forests into military garrisons. The presence of armed forces inside forests negatively affected the wildlife of the state. Giving forest lands to security forces for setting of camps is a continuous phenomenon in Kashmir Valley. In 2019, under president’s rule, J&K has given up 243 hectares of forest land for army and paramilitary use. Due to the military operations, presence of forces camps inside forests, there is a greater threat to natural habitat of the wild animals. Dumping of arms and ammunition inside Line of control has also negative effects on soil fertility and thus have negative impact on agronomic practices.

 

Destruction to highland Pastures

The presence of large scale armed forces is affecting the livestock of the region. Restricting grazing lands is seriously affecting the occupation Shepherds. Restricting movement in some highland pastures is one of the major challenges which the livestock industry is facing. In comparison to national availability of 1.0 hectares to one livestock, only 0.4 hectares is available in Jammu and Kashmir. Presence of large scale armed forces, unexploded shells etc. have led to the destruction of highland pastures of Kashmir valley.

 

Conclusion

The ecology of Kashmir had suffered a lot of damage due to ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan. This conflict is consuming human kind, not just in-terms of loss of precious human lives and economic losses but also caused severe damage to both flora as well as fauna of the valley, which ultimately led to the destruction of the region’s ecological wealth.

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