Surviving the Water Crisis-IV

Surviving the Water Crisis-IV
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By Rao Farman Ali

Equally, Directorate of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing Jammu and Kashmir, in its report titled “A Satellite Based Rapid Assessment on Floods in Jammu & Kashmir-September, 2014,” reveals that more than 50 percent of water bodies in and around Srinagar have disappeared during the past century. There is siltation of lakes due to massive erosion in the catchment area and which turn into land masses. In 1911, the total extent of water bodies with marshy areas was 356.85 km. However, it has reduced to 158.54 km in 2011 and the world famous Dal Lake in Srinagar, has reduced in size from 2,547 hectares in 1971 to 1,620 hectares in 2008. The rapid disappearance of water bodies and wetlands is the major concern in State. If this phenomenon continues, Jammu and Kashmir will be rendered almost drought hit in terms of agriculture.
Most of the agricultural land has come under unregulated and illegal residential and commercial constructions, owing to the unholy politico- bureaucratic nexus with land mafia, besides, ill planned road construction and other projects. Official data of the Agriculture department 2012 reveals that under New Delhi’s flagship Programme, Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojina (PMGSY), the State has lost 875.665 hectares of forest land and experts fear if the constructions continued at the same pace, it will pose a serious threat to the forests, commonly known as green gold of Kashmir. 875.6647 hectares of forest land has been used for road construction only under PMGSY till date for which the government had incurred an expenditure of over INR 2.70 billion. In addition, the Banihal-Baramullah rail link, construction of four-lane road of national highway project NH1A[NH44], two-lane road of national highway NA 404 in South Kashmir or national highway 1B or circular roads in north and central Kashmir, also in Ladakh region or Jammu province, whose records are not clearly defined, are the factors responsible for the loss of agriculture land in Jammu and Kashmir.
Similarly, an acute shortage of drinking water in Jammu region, especially, southern parts of province, has led to sporadic demonstrations by protesters during the past few summers, whose frequency is increasing day in and day out.
Although, the Jammu and Kashmir State Water Resources Regulatory Authority 2014 which started to conceive from 12th of May 2010 and Vide Notification No: 16/JKSWRRA/2014 dated 12.06.2014 was fully established, now, commonly called as Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources (Regulation & Management) Act 2010 (Act No XXI of 2010), but unfortunately, iit is just a licensing authority.
In June 2016, the Jammu and Kashmir Government claimed that 15,798 rural habitations, out of which 8,535 habitations (54 percent) have access to proper drinking water. However, still more than 40 percent of the rural habitations in Jammu and Kashmir do not have access to proper drinking water facilities. In urban areas, it is satisfactory but not excellent.
Similarly, Azad Kashmir is fully dependent upon Pakistan for military and economic survival, but it too is strategically important, because, it irrigates the West Punjab by rivers which run through it and by vast projects like Magla Dam, which were over the years are situated on its soil. The area under cultivation in Azad Kashmir is around 166432 hectares (almost 13 percent of the total area). Now, reduced agriculture productivity has adversely affected the traditional lifestyles and average per capita income of the rural household, although, about 42 percent of the total geographical area (0.6 million hectares) is controlled by the forest department. Further, by allowing 614 cusecs of water from Jhelum river for drinking and irrigation purposes in Azad Kashmir ( Mirpuri areas) face strong opposition from Sindh. People of Azad Kashmir feel that Mangla Dam and water reservoirs are exploitative in nature in context with Azad Kashmir. Alike, Gilgit-Baltistan, which has the cropped area of 73902 hectares, but, it is not represented as the part of Indus River System Authority (IRSA), unlike, other provinces of Pakistan,
Water conflict between Kashmir, especially AJK and Pakistan is inevitable. Besides, in India in the immediate future, prominent voices have started emerging on either side of LoC which demand for maximum authority to people of Jammu and Kashmir and AJK. Some Kashmiri intellectuals have started asking to give participatory role to Kashmiris on either side of LoC and going for the amendment under Article XII, (3) and (4). Furthermore, common people in Kashmir ask to unfold or fasten the crumples about the position of Kashmir vis-à-vis IWT and under whose control Jammu and Kashmir is !
Equally, people of Jammu and Kashmir on either side of LoC insist for tangible and permanent role in Kashmiri waters and to get incorporated as Indus Water Treaty[IWT] is asking for Indo-Pak Indus commission, whose establishment has been clearly defined under Article VIII, clauses 1-10 of IWT.
On the other hand, in many countries, national security has historically been defined as military security. It is now understood that military might is only one element in the human security equation, and that water can play a determining role in international, national and trans-boundary conflicts. Although real potential exists for conflict over water, water tensions can also offer potential for cooperation between states, so long as the underlying institutions and capacity are in place for such cooperation to happen.
Water security is also the foundation for food and energy security, and for overall long-term social and economic development. Water underpins health, nutrition, equity, gender equality, well-being and economic progress, especially in developing countries. But equitable water supply and quality problems are also threatening the security of some of the most developed countries in the world.
The contemporary understanding of water security concerns of India and Pakistan, essentially Kashmir, where almost four rivers of Indus Basin flow, also make it clear that broader principles must be incorporated into trans-boundary treaties if such agreements are to remain relevant in changing hydrological scenarios. These principles include: integration of surface and groundwater interactions with land use planning and water management; ecosystem protection; public and private sector involvement; collaborative, multi-level governance; and the need for adaptability and flexibility in the management of shared waters and active participation of people of Jammu and Kashmir on either side of LoC. All this should be under the purview of the principles that work at the international level and to demonstrate their applicability at the regional and sub-regional levels, besides strengthening trust and confidence, which can only emerge through collaboration and public involvement at all levels with mutual water- governance in all regions of Jammu and Kashmir on either side of LoC as a part of Confidence- Building- Measures(CBM).

—The author has written four books on the Kashmir Conflict and can be reached at: raofarmanali@gmail.com

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