WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, DAVOS

SPECIAL EDITION

Global political, business and social leaders gathered in the Swiss town of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum last week to discuss the most difficult challenges confronted by humanity today.

In an environment characterized by deep uncertainty and survival challenges for all people, last week World Economic Forum also released the Global Risks Report, 2019. 

Among the top 10 risks facing humanity in 2019, the Global Risks Report has identified 6 risks that have a direct correlation with the ecological and environmental context of Jammu & Kashmir state. The risks identified include:
 1. Extreme weather events 2. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation 3. Major natural disasters 6. Man-made environmental damage and disasters 8. Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse 9. Water crisis. 
Ziraat Times set out to address three critical questions in this issue:
 a)  Are these identified risks relevant to J&K?
 b)  Do these issues/challenges receive adequate attention at public policy and civil society levels at all in J&K?
c)  What should be done at the public policy level in addressing these issues?

For this special edition, Ziraat Times engaged with some of the most distinguished and learned people across Jammu & Kashmir to elicit their views on how do they see Jammu & Kashmir state placed in the backdrop of the top ten global risks. Here is what the experts say:

Salman I fear the complacency that exists in J&K: Salman Anees Soz

ZT: Mr. Salman, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Ziraat Times on this matter. Talking about the risks confronted by humanity as identified by the Global Risks Report, 2019, do you think the risks identified are relevant to J&K? 

The risks identified apply to J&K, as they do to many other parts of the world. The key is to use a disaggregated approach to match risks to local contexts. For example, flood risk near our cities is high but those living on the Line of Control or the International Border face different risks. Damage caused by earthquakes to dense urban areas is unlikely to be of the same magnitude as that caused in sparsely populated areas of Ladakh. Context is essential for risk mapping. That is what policymakers should be looking at. One single approach is not good when we have different risks in different places.

ZT: Do these issues/challenges receive adequate attention at public policy and civil society levels at all in J&K? 

I think there is greater awareness of the risks posed by natural and man-made hazards. The 2014 floods left a mark on people and policymakers alike. Having said that, it is also not uncommon for people and governments to forget about disaster risk management until the next disaster strikes. I fear that complacency exists in J&K as well. I don’t know if we are much safer today compared to 2014. Given the limited institutional capacity in states such as our own, I don’t believe we have the institutional or policy framework to significantly reduce risks. Again, this is similar to what happened in other states and in many developing countries. But we must go beyond episodic hand wringing and build a constituency for reducing risks and ensuring sustainable development in J&K.

ZT: What do you think should be done at the public policy level in addressing these issues.  

There are no short-cuts to development issues. Without proper legal, policy and institutional frameworks, it is unlikely that we can progress in a manner that can make J&K’s society prosperous and just. There is no doubt that we also lack sufficient resources to deploy for many development activities. However, I am of the belief that there is sufficient talent in the state to leverage for socioeconomic development. We need new models of governance and a no-nonsense attitude to some of our most pressing challenges. We typically look at risks at a more downstream level, by which time there isn’t much we can do. We need to go more upstream, focus on basics such as education and health and the rule of law and unleashing private sector activity and ensuring targeted social protection. If we do these things, we will be better able to cope with challenges, whether natural or man-made.

 

Faiz BakshiThese issues of critical importance need a Public movement: Faiz Bakshi

The Global Risk Report-2019 on Climate Change presented at World Economic Forum Davos, Switzerland, has sent spine chilling message across the globe that it is not 1.5 but up to 4 degrees Centigrade rise in surface temperature by the end of the Century. This revelation has evoked widespread concern around the world, overshadowing the hitherto dominant economic issues.

Governments, organizations, researchers, scientists, and activists who helplessly watch their efforts to limit global warming are faced with inadequate response and lack of commitment by some powerful nations. The fact that 6 out of 10 risk factors facing humanity in 2019  are directly related to ecological and environmental issues cannot but be co-related and relevant in the context of the State of Jammu & Kashmir which is faced with very serious ecological issues.

The identified risks of extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, major natural disasters, manmade natural disasters, major biodiversity loss and ecosystems collapse, water crisis etc. are already having serious consequences for the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

During the last few decades we have seen a rise in average temperatures, low precipitation, fast melting of glaciers, loss of forest cover, intensity in windstorms, hailstorms, unseasonal snowfall and snowstorms resulting in loss of human & animal lives ,causing large scale damage to agriculture/horticulture and various economic sectors and serious disruption in day to day life. The loss in economic terms is hard to comprehend.

These factors are also relevant when we look at some recent disasters in our State. The floods of 2014 and the devastations caused by it. The floods were more a man-made disaster than a natural one. The unabated deforestation, degradation of water bodies, Lakes and Wetlands, encroachment and vandalization, failure of climate mitigation etc played a complementary role in what was dubbed as a “ Natural Disaster “  but was more of a “Man-made Disaster “.There are many more such examples.

These issues/ challenges are the last on the list of Government priorities. The Environmental Policy Group (EPG) through persuasion and Court intervention through various Public Interest Litigations forced the Government in preparing the draft of The State Environmental Policy & The Disaster Management Authority. The constitution of Wetlands Authority or a Common Waterbodies Authority is yet to see the light of the day. Similarly, the Wetlands and water bodies ( which help in absorbing heat thereby controlling the rise in temperature ) are being systematically destroyed by Government by way of earth filling and making way for IIM’s & other institutions (Narakarra). The Wular & Dal Lake the less spoken about the better. The role of Civil Society is mostly confined to a discussion on Social Media whereas these issues of critical importance need a Public movement.

 At Public Policy level, the Government should acknowledge the concern that we are faced with the prospect of 4 degrees Centigrade rise in global temperature by the turn of the century as compared to 1.5 C degrees believed earlier.

Create an Independent Department Of Climate Change with representation from various Departments, Institutions, experts and concerned Civil Society Groups

Full-Time research and Policy Planning Department to guide in policy formulation.

The policy to reduce greenhouse gas by imposing Carbon Tax should be framed immediately.

Make public aware about the Carbon Credit practices.

And a mass awareness programme about the disastrous consequences of Climate Change & Global Warming.

 

Fida IqbalWeather vagaries, natural disasters, and water crisis are offshoots of meddling with the ecosystem: Fida Iqbal (Eminent Columnist)

If we place these six risk factors in a sequential order of priority and importance then ‘Man-made environmental damage and disaster’ and ‘major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse’ are more than relevant to Jammu & Kashmir state’s eco-concern. And these two impending risk factors can be minimized by a commanding public policy and people’s participation — meaning through an active civil society action. 

Weather vagaries, natural disasters, and water crisis are offshoots of meddling with the ecosystem.  Yes, over the period, the state has failed to frame a holistic public policy to ensure (both morally and legally) accepted synchronicity of organisms within the physical aspects of the environment. And as a society, we are unable to bolster the saner voices that consistently and practically stand for the preservation of our ecosystem. The worry for climate change is last but not the least in our sequence of consequential ecological sufferings.

In the present worst compromising environmental scenario, we require a coherent, comprehensive and righteous road-map that can lead us to ecological magnificence. A consistent iron-fisted leadership with possessive mind and caring heart should be the ultimate of our public policy vis a vis our ecosystem.

 

 

Irfan AliTragically, these issues do not receive due attention in J&K: Irfan Ali Shah

Given the geopolitical instability, the fragile ecological systems and huge dependence of burgeoning local populace on limited, rapidly diminishing and degraded natural resources base including forests, wetlands, and glaciers in J&K state, the risks deliberated upon in Global Risk Report 2019 (World Economic  Forum) have assumed more relevance than before. Tragically, all these issues do not receive due attention at Governmental and Non Government levels because of other presumed priorities like the per-capita debt, deficit budgetary losses and the local unrest conditions etc in some parts of the state. 

Liberal international funding from donor governments and agencies across the globe have to be mobilized and long term investments and climate-smart strategies in the natural resources management sector, including forests and water, are to be made for fighting back the risks viz environmental, socio-economic and geopolitical, which are threatening the survival of the people of J&K.

 

Saleem BegThese risks are a major threat to our survival: Saleem Beg

The risks identified in the report are now globally validated with data and research. These risks and parameters that these are based on are compounded in fragile and vulnerable geographies like mountainous regions. These risks have resulted in a major impact on the quality of life and a major threat to our survival. Floods are a result of weather phenomena and, therefore, nothing much can be done locally to prevent these. However, the mitigation processes that nature has provided have been badly impacted in Kashmir. Degradation of the catchments is a major cause of concern in this regard. 

While we have no measurable data on pollution, the highly polluting heavy traffic is growing at an untenable pace. While looking at the lack of awareness, a case in point is the agri-practices and processes like pruning and burning of pruned material in orchards throughout the plains of the valley that result in a disastrous smoke veil and choking air quality, especially in humid autumn months. This major health hazard is not even listed in the institutional or societal narrative.

 

UntitledConflict puts ecological issues to background: Om Prakash Vidyarthi

We need a moratorium on PMGSY mega projects

Risks identified are not without basis. Fragile mountain ecology stands disturbed significantly in the last decade due to fledging road networks, deforestation, loss of soils, slopes prone to landslides, etc. Natural vegetation keeps natural disasters under control. Once gone, vulnerability gets increased. We need measures on a war footing but, unfortunately, there are many constraints in the conflict zone.

Many state and national schemes address the eco-concerns but developmental issues, mainly physical development, get priority over protection of ecology. Deforestation, soil erosion, forest fires, land encroachment, climate change, defense needs, overuse of agrochemicals, weak implementation of prescribed regulations at various levels have changed soil health, wetland ecology, invasion by exotic weeds, loss of local biodiversity, degraded quality of air, water, food,  plastic usage, and chemical factories  have a blame to share. 

Conflict puts ecological issues to the background, measures taken today will be discernible much later as ecological healing is a long process. Efforts are there, public sensitivity is there, environmental activism is emerging trend but coordination at various levels is still missing.

Mountain ecology needs protection at all costs. We need a moratorium on PMGSY mega projects, rotational grazing needs to be enforced, quality of life has a connect to quality air linked to quality forests. Quality drinking water is linked to rich forest cover, improved PHE water supply to phase out of plastic usage. Quality food products raised through organic farming, agrochemicals maximize production but impact soil, food, and human health. Violations need to taken note of by various implementing agencies, like human health, food, and water security are all linked to the environment.

(Director Ecology, Environment & Remote Sensing, J&K Government)

 

Mian JavedToday the climate crisis in J&K has become quite frightening: Mian Javed Hussein, IFS (Retd.)

The climate change is already in, and the State of J&K is no exception to that reality. Climate change is not something that will hit us one day in a spectacular manner. It is happening right now, every day, all around us. 

We need to worry about food security, extreme heat waves, changes in the system of precipitation, water scarcity and glacial melting.  We are paying a heavy price for abusing the earth’s resources on account of the large-scale man-made environmental damages and disasters. Human greed and ever-increasing population thrust on our natural resources under the garb of development, urbanization, industrialization, etc have a collective and fatal impact on our fragile ecology and biodiversity. 

A sizeable population and wealth of our country in general and State, in particular, is at stake on account of disastrous consequences of climate change. These may not be visible all the time. Even minor changes in seasonal cycle and monsoons and quantum of rainfall and snowfall can have a severe adverse impact with grave economic implications by disrupting the agricultural cycle in India. 

Scientists have warned of the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers due to increase in global temperatures as a result of the climate change, followed by snap floods, mud-slides, soil erosion, etc resulting in a decrease in the flow of our rivers and streams that are glacier fed, thus adversely impacting the human life and biodiversity. Ice holds large freshwater supplies (especially in J&K) and is a vital part of the ecosystem. 

A rise in temperature leads to a reduction of ice and snow in high mountains. This affects the flow of rivers and streams, which, in turn, has an adverse impact on agriculture production, health, transport, food supplies, plant and animal life, including fish. Even minor changes in seasonal cycle and quantum of rainfall and snowfall can have a severe adverse impact with grave economic implications by disrupting the agricultural (including horticulture) cycle of our State. 

We are witnessing all these changes in our State over the past few years more distinctly. Early spring season, abnormal heat during summer and autumn, dry or abnormal wet winters, erratic pattern of rains ( mostly with abnormal cycle and in untimely spells) and snowfall are the distinct signs of climate change now frequently witnessed in our State. 

Global warming and climate change pose a serious threat to biological diversity. Survival of humans depends on ecological security and pollution free planet. Today the climate crisis scenario has become quite frightening.  Concerted efforts at all levels without any exception are urgently needed or else, it would result in the breakdown of ecological and environmental balance, impacting to wipe out the entire human race.  

In view of the flabbergasting projections arising out of climate change, it is categorically held that no one else repairs deteriorating climate and ecosystems than the biodiversity resource. There is no dream solution either. And, therefore, intelligent investment in biodiversity and its conservation is a key paradigm of where climate benefits and ecosystem benefits can accrue in one transaction. The response and action plan of the State to set in an adequate mitigation programme is not matching the pace of global warming, resulting in rapid climate change. The grave challenges faced by the State warrant a speedy multi-pronged mitigation strategy on a sustained long term basis to deal with the impending threats that are facing mankind on account of climate change. Public awareness too is grossly lacking on this crucial subject of far-reaching consequences.  

The civil society needs to wake up to play its role by their active participation in relevant mitigation measures to heal the mother earth. We have only one earth. Let us heal it and leave behind carbon free earth for our future generations.  Only the effective and result-oriented  “Greening of the Earth” is the way forward as we know that no other living being on earth than a tree or a forest renders invaluable service to the environment as a vital tool of climate change mitigation campaign. 

 

MantashaDisaster-resilient vertical construction in J&K is now needed of the hour: Mantasha Binti Rashid (Academic activist and civil servant)

Unabated landfilling of paddy fields, wetlands, and irrigation canals is being done to make townships and colonies without any awareness of the ensuing disasters it can cause. The Nallah Mar Road that runs from Qamarwari in North to Dalgate in South is the oldest disaster. We are filling natural outlets of our lake systems. And then we are amazed why 2014 floods occurred! 

There’s an immense lack of awareness around the issues of the environment. Timber is still sold in black-market in Srinagar which means that deforestation is still going on.

Go to Budgam district in the central Kashmir, and see the pollution from brick kilns. Go to Khonmoh in South Kashmir, there are so many cement plants. People in Khonmoh area are having increased respiratory issues and pollution that is showing in apple orchards and other vegetation. 

Human-made environmental disasters in my opinion out of the list are highly relevant in J&K context. Literacy about these issues is poor and there is no holistic policy in place to combat the environmental impact of human-made activities.

Open sewers in Srinagar and unscientific landfill on Anchar lake banks are some other examples.

At a policy level, awareness, stringent laws that are implemented in a robust manner, a healthy system of government-run colonies with disaster-resilient vertical construction, a robust transport system in the city and so many other provisions are the need of the hour.

 

RajeshwarJ&K Government should concentrate on developing micro and mini hydel projects: Rajeshwar Singh Jamwal (Environmentalist)

The climate change combat measures are not seriously introspected in our state. The prime responsibility lies with the departments of Forests and Revenue. Chunks of Forest/State lands have been badly vandalized/encroached. The tree cover protects the gully erosion due to downpour as the rains hit the tree leaves and not the soil covered by these trees and the absence of substantive tree cover paves way for soil erosion and floods thereof. The tree cover also works as a carbon sink and its absence attributes to rise in temperature in a locality which badly affects the growth of plants/ vegetables/fruits/cereals etc. in the vicinity as microclimate is disturbed.

The permission for operation of stone crushers with wet/hot mix macadam plants within one kilometer of demarcated forest boundaries throughout the length and breadth of J&K State by the concerned competent government agencies reportedly under pecuniary considerations had also vandalised eco-sensitivity of our state and Forest/Revenue Departments and Pollution Control Board officials are making the hay while the sun shines reportedly.

Instead of constructing mega hydel projects, if the Government concentrates on developing micro and mini hydel projects it will attribute too much more generation of electricity and will save devastation of our forests and ecology. The need of the hour is to launch climate proofing project in our state as being going on our neighboring state under the nomenclature of HIMACHAL PRADESH FORESTS CLIMATE PROOFING PROJECT (which is an externally aided project).

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