A Kashmir civil society group, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) Friday cautioned the state government against any attempt to extend the lease of Tosa Maidan to army or provide them an alternative space within the state for conducting artillery exercises.
“GOC 15 Corps while launching a cleaning operation of Tosa Maidan a few days back made a startling revelation that “extension of Tosa Maidan lease was doing rounds,” the statement said. It added, “the statement was analysed by KCSDS in a meeting on the issue.”
In a meeting with Prof. Hameedah Nayeem in chair, the statement said, the members of KCSDS have asked the state government to clear its stand on the issue viz-a-viz the disturbing revelation made by GOC 15 Corps Lt Gen. Subrata Saha in a recently held press conference, “plans to extend Tosa Maidan lease to army were doing rounds”.
The statement termed any “proposal to provide alternative location to the army for conducting live artillery exercises as horrible and hilarious keeping in mind its negative fallout both on the fragile ecology as well as human settlements”.
It said that the civil society group members expressed their deep concern that 12 out of 66 Firing Ranges were established by army in the eco sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir and demanded that all these ranges need to be relocated to areas outside the state in areas that have minimal or no affect on environment and human life.
“Entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is ecologically sensitive with lush green forests, glaciers, water bodies, meadows, flora and fauna, and in no way is suitable for dumping explosives,” the statement said.
It observed, “artillery shelling has an adverse affect not only on the ecology but also on the human health. The reported presence of depleted uranium in the explosive devises is a cause of concern for entire society because a rise in the dreaded deceases in the surrounding population is being associated with excessive use of explosives in the artillery exercises.”
“Nowhere in the world eco-fragile mountains and areas are used for army exercises but the same are being conducted in isolated and remotest areas like Nevada in the US. The most appropriate place for such exercises in India happens to be Mahajan Ranges near Bikaner and Lathi Ranges near Pokharan as suggested by a former GOC 15 Corps,” the statement further noted.
However, instead of having live firing practice, the army is needed to switch over to modern technologies and look at super simulators as has been opined by eminent Generals (ex-chiefs) of Indian army, the members of KCSDS have suggested.
It welcomed the ‘cleaning operation’ of Tosa Maidan by army and hoped that the operation is completed within shortest possible time and the area is handed over to the state government for development as a eco-friendly tourist destination. “The cleaning operation has, however, been initiated only after the littered shells have consumed scores of human lives and livestock and maimed hundreds in the area,” observed KCSDS members.