Kashmir: Climate Change And Conflict – OpEd


The dramatic shifts in lifestyle that have taken place in Kashmir over the past two or three decades provide compelling evidence that the region’s environment has shifted. The way the environment behaves has undergone significant shifts, whether it be our lakes and wetlands, such as Wular, Dal, Anchar, and Highgam, which are becoming like solid waste dumping sites, or the alpine glacial reservoirs, such as Thaajwas to Kolahai, Sheshnag to Siachin, which are melting faster than researchers and environmental scientists had anticipated, leading to unanticipated disasters and calamities. The amount and kind of precipitation, such as rain and snowfall, has drastically changed during the past several years. The unpredictability of the weather and the presence of unfavourable conditions have had a massively negative impact on the ground. There is reason to believe that the majority of the glacier cover will sustain significant damage given that IIOJK has already emerged as the crucible for the climate change.

Ibex, blue sheep, urian the big-horned sheep, antelopes, and the snow leopard were among the endangered animals that were subjected to widespread poaching after Indian troops were stationed in IIOJK Kashmir in 1947.

According to environmental activist Raja Muzaffar Bhat, the presence of armed personnel in any eco-sensitive area is extremely harmful to the surrounding ecosystem. According to scientists, the Kashmir region is home to between 120 and 150 glaciers; however, due to human meddling and tension, these glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. In his study published in 2002 and titled “The Military Impact on the Environment,” scholar DH Eddie stated that environmental stress is both a cause and an effect of political tension and military conflict between India and Pakistan. He explained that these two countries fought to assert or resist control on the natural resources of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is also the most heavily militarised region, and as of the 5th of August, 2019, it has been given the moniker of being the largest open-sky prison in the entire globe. The situation in Kashmir and the lives of its citizens are getting worse with each passing day as a direct result of the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370, which provided Indian-occupied Kashmir with the unique status of semi-autonomy. There is a massive plot afoot to alter the demographics of the state of Kashmir in favour of India, and it involves the issuance of residency licences to millions of people from outside the region. Not only do actions of this nature violate United Nations resolutions regarding Kashmir, but they also pose a significant risk to the ecosystem and ecological system of the valley.

The fact that such a large number of pilgrims go through such an ecologically delicate area is another source of severe concern. Environmental specialists have already sounded the alarm over the increasing number of activities in the Himalayan region, stating that these activities have a negative impact not only on the environment of the region but also on the eco system as a whole because of the increasing numbers of people and the waste that is left behind.

Since 2014, Kashmir has seen an increase in the frequency of meteorological conditions characterised by a dryness. Because it is a hilly region, IIOJK is famous for the production of dried fruits as well as other pricey spices like saffron. With temperatures rising by an average of 1.45 degrees Celsius per year, the effects of global warming are becoming increasingly apparent and pose a threat to the way of life of the residents. Many have reported seeing the early growth of local flowers that normally grow at least a couple of months later. In addition, people have complained about crops entirely burning up due to the unpredictability of climate change. On the Indian side of Kashmir, many of the local farmers have expressed frustration over the decline in yield.

Kashmir is considered to be in a particularly important location due to the fact that it supplies Pakistan with between 75 and 80 percent of the water that Pakistan consumes, while at the same time the streams of Kashmir are the source of India’s holiest river, the Ganges. However, rivers, particularly those running towards Pakistan, are drying up at an alarming rate because glaciers are melting at an ever-increasingly rapid pace, and droughts are a contributing factor. This sudden drying up of rivers will cause obstacles in the transboundary water sharing between India and Pakistan, which will only severely strain the already tense relations even further. Pakistan already has doubts about India’s honesty regarding the natural flow of the rivers, and this sudden drying up of rivers will only add to those doubts. In addition to this, climate experts have issued a warning about more extreme weather events that the region may suffer in the future. These situations include an increase in cloudbursts and hailstorms, cooler summers, higher winter temperatures, and colder summers. The ecological imbalances will without a doubt have significant repercussions both in Kashmir and Pakistan; nevertheless, the repercussions for governments that are not located in the region cannot be minimised.

After such incidents, the government is forced to invest more money in internal security rather than social welfare, and they frequently reduce the amount of money they allocate to social welfare in order to increase the amount of money they allocate to internal security. These frequently have repercussions for which neither the government nor the people are ready to account when they occur. One country that comes to mind is Syria, which is remembered across the world for its seemingly never-ending civil war and the increase of sectarian violence; nevertheless, relatively few people are aware of the rationale that led to the beginning of this conflict. In the years leading up to the Arab Spring, rural communities in Syria were struggling to meet their water needs, and as a result, people were moving to metropolitan centres. The government was forced to take negative acts as a consequence of overpopulation, which in turn resulted in a spike in both the crime rate and the unemployment rate. These actions eventually led to the civil war, which is still going on to this day. One can only hazard a guess as to the terrible results that such careless management might bring about in the area.

The Valley of Kashmir is often regarded as a slice of heaven that may be found on Earth, and this reputation ought not to change. It has only resulted negatively, especially with regard to global warming, and worst of all, the impact of this transnational mother nature’s course has severely impacted the region on the inside; in IIOJK. There is no solution to a heavy militarization; it has only resulted in a worsening of the situation.

During his speech for World Environment Day, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, remarked, “The world is resilient, but she needs our support.” In this light, we make the following plea to the United Nations and to other important stakeholders: Please question India about its illegal acts that are the cause of damage to the environment and climate change. Put an end to the massive militarization that has taken place in the region and implement the resolutions of the United Nations on Kashmir.

Jehangir Khan Mehsud is a graduate of economics and political science from Forman Christian College University, Lahore.

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