ENVIRONMENTAL THREAT IN KASHMIR: THE CASE FOR ECO SECURITY

  • MUNEEB YOUSUF
  • Publish Date: Nov 4 2018 9:15PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 5 2018 3:43AM
ENVIRONMENTAL THREAT IN KASHMIR: THE CASE FOR ECO SECURITYRepresentational Pic

In a visit to the subcontinent in March 2000, the U.S. President Bill Clinton called the cease-fire line that divides Kashmir as “the most dangerous place in the world”. The statement came after India and Pakistan fought a limited war in the hills of Kargil that had the possibility of nukes getting involved. Undoubtedly, the subcontinent in general and Kashmir in particular sits on the trigger of a nuclear war.

But there is another subject whose repercussions are equally wider and bigger that we don’t recognize much of, despite being struck by it.

The hierarchal notion of ‘securitization’ both in theory and practice has laid much focus on military security leaving less resources and less attention to environmental and other forms of security. The notion of sitting in the lap of nuclear weapons certainly brings the kingdom of heaven to world attention. Apart from it, the militarization on both the sides of a cease-fire line that India and Pakistan have maintained to guard their respective territories of Kashmir elucidates the priority of certain variety of security. The prominence of military security and the ensuing political conflict that has rather become intractable has left less room on the deliberation of means and methods that could reduce the looming ecological disasters. Instead, the state machinery has placed the military barracks and police pockets in ecologically sensitive places amidst forests, river banks, meadows–––that has deep ecological repercussions. Not only this, the local administration has also failed to check the major causes that are leading to environmental furies like flood. There has been a profound shrinkage of water-bodies both in local and urban centers and a flash of floods just after few hours of rain is no puzzling. The shrinkage of water bodies and wetlands has profoundly lowered the water retaining capacity that acted as ever present angels during the times of incessant rainfall.

Befalling of an environmental disaster in the Valley could wipe significant section of the population. In the context of looming environmental threats and changing climatic patterns, it becomes essential to highlight the emerging discourses in the field of security that has largely remained ‘contested’. The idea of security has been criticized for being ethnocentric and its narrow consideration for national security apparatus. As a result, there is an increasing demand of broadening the notion of security that could encompass environmental concerns among others in the larger agenda of security. In the field of International Relations, security has largely revolved around the existence of the logic of war, pushing states to arms building––spreading confrontational logic of security. The same goes true for the nation-sates of India and Pakistan, who have built a range of armaments in a zero-sum pattern, with several wars mainly fought over the Kashmir territory.  

Thus, this should not surprise us of voices coming for incorporating other concerns in the security sector. Barry Buzan in his prominent work People, States and Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations argues that the idea of security should be broadened so that it could include environmental, economic, human, food and other fields into it.  

What military security will furnish if the kingdom of heaven is struck by a major environmental disaster? The disaster will not only have consequences on the civilian population but also the military apparatus that has been kept to so-called guard the territory. At times, the environmental disasters can have consequences of regional dimension. Though there is a debate of ‘de-securitization’ in the field of security studies, only those issues could lose the attention in theory or for that matter in practice too whose neglect won’t unleash greater repercussions. The environmental issues have proven deadly both at the local and global level. Robert Kaplan in his work The Coming Anarchy claims that environmental degradation will emerge as a national security issue.

In the broader outline of the arguments mentioned so far, there is a need to analyze the very impact of human intervention on the overall ecology which if not addressed, will adversely affect us all. This debate largely comes into the theoretical notion of Anthropocene–––pushing us to see beyond issues of nuclear war, of how hundreds of thousands of non-human species are affected by our daily exercises. The question arises, who is going to represent on behalf of thousands of non-human species, who are regularly undergoing a ‘holocaust’ of their own kind by our day to day practices? Putting things in a different direction, we need to judge our actions through the senses of countless organisms many of whom don’t possess sensory organs like humans. A multitude of organisms are out there, whose presence majority of us even don’t know, interacting in a model that has been affected by human interference leading to extinction of several of them.

A number of factors have contributed to environmental degradation in the state. And the militarization being one of the prime factors. Despite this, military’s role in environmental degradation has received less attention. According to Ministry of Defence, seventy thousand hectares of land is under army’s possession in Jammu and Kashmir. From the national perspective they have positioned for security purpose. However, state itself has paid least attention on what their presence in an ecologically sensitive place is leading to. It also needs to be understood in the imagination of the how environs of the places deep into the nature used to operate before army camps were placed in them and how their nature of operation has been affected after placing security apparatus in them.  

 

SAD STATE OF FLOOD CHANNELS 

 

This forms another major concern and the irony is that we haven’t learnt from our past mistakes. 

The flood channels act as safe passage for flushing out the exceeding water level in the Jhelum river. Despite being hit by the 2014 floods, encroachment has taken place unabated on flood channels and river banks. Several constructions have been raised on the Soneir Kuel, Choenth Koel. The act of encroaching such vital passages is in itself–– an invitation of another nature’s fury. Not only are encroachers responsible for this but the institutions too, who were supposed to take strict action against them. It seems that they are complicit in such endeavors. The Nalla Maar canal which passed through the heart of the city has just remained a name only.     

 

AMARNATH PILGRIMAGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS

 

Furthermore, annual pilgrimage unleashes devastating consequences on the state environment.  Every year, around four lakh yatris come to Kashmir to visit the holy cave, which is situated deep into the chandanwadi of Pehalgam. The route to the holy cave passes through ecologically fragile zone consisting of glaciers and green pastures. In addition, the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that looks into smooth pilgrimage sets hundreds of langar posts that serve food and water to devotees. These posts produce heaps of waste in the form of plastic plates, cups, bottles and waste food.  The produced waste is not disposed properly; instead, one finds the plastic material floating in the running water and other waste open around the established tents. The officials of the tourism department of Kashmir have said on record of the destruction caused to the ecology by the annual Amarnath Yatra. According to the officials, the yatra results in environmental degradation, affecting the flora and fauna at considerable rate. In relation to this, there is a need to regulate the yatra and employing of strict measures that would reduce the environment hazards.

 

DESTRUCTION BY LOCALS

 

Highlighting the relation of colossal environmental threats with Amarnath Yatra does not absolve the local population and different institutions from the deteriorating climatic conditions. Increasing deforestation, encroachment of Jehlum river and flood channels are testimonies to the fact of how common people themselves invite nature to fury on them. The different state institutions in place do not take note of any individual’s or builder’s choice of building houses in a wetland area. In this scenario, the irrigation department of Jammu and Kashmir is the main culprit. The countless small ponds that were attached to streams and rivers would absorb gallons of water in the aftermath of incessant rainfall. Those ponds have been transformed to dry land and irrigation department has not taken any notice of it. Thus, whenever, there is a heavy rainfall, we quickly witness the rise in level of waterbodies and the thereby inundations. 

The role of local bodies in the deteriorating environment cannot be neglected. The Kashmir practices of waste dumping is flawed which also gets compounded by inefficiency of Municipal Committees. Furthermore, the state is not in a mood to consider challenges except for the polity which has sadly become the prime interest  of local media beyond which media discourses find no other subject. Likewise, freedom leaders too engage with the state and the larger public through the abyss of politics which has unfortunately become the discursive super highway. We are thus unable to realize that this politics driven discursive abyss is a hazardous undertaking, which supplants other discourses from emerging such as environmental issues.

This should serve as a wake-up call to the state and the civil society too. There is a need for envisioning a future that is absent from threats of not only of military but of all including environmental so that our core values remain preserved. Laying too much emphasis on one form of security will devoid us of a better future, that we all strive and dream of.  .

 

(Muneeb Yousuf is Ph.D. Scholar, MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi)