Pass It On

Shams Irfan

A few days back I was watching a documentary on Discovery channel about Europe’s transition post World War II. The focus of the film was how Europe reshaped itself after the bloodied war that devastated most of the major cities. It was part interactive and part informative. The film showed how during the course of war Europe’s 80 per cent green cover was reduced to ashes. With artillery smashing through forests and green areas a major part of Europe presented a sorry picture. But then camera moved to present day Europe and tilted over lush green forests and fields covering vast stretches of land with voiceover telling viewers that these areas were completely denuded of any vegetation during the Great War. The transition from ashes to lush green forests happened in just five decades time, the voiceover informed. The film touched me deeply as I had recently travelled along the new highway that is being laid from Qazigund to Panthachowk.  The level of construction that was going on in the once green paddy fields reminded me of our scarce resources and our growing dependence on others for food. A major part of the highway passes through fertile belt that runs along river Jhelum. Rather than diverting the new highway project through barren or less yielding lands, the insensitive government preferred to concretize the once green fields. A part of that highway will pass through famous saffron fields thus rendering the land useless for ever. The most ironic part was when government decided to cut 91 Chinar trees that once famously lines the old road connecting Srinagar with Islamabad. It takes hundreds of years for a Chinar tree to reach its full bloom but who cares! Kashmir is no Europe that authorities will be concerned about the preservation of nature while carrying out the developmental work. One of the local officer’s who has been a part of the new highway project tried his best to convince implementing agency bosses to bypass saffron fields by taking a small detour. But he was told to keep his emotions to himself as it would cost the agency four crore more. With saffron already at the brink of extinction because of shrinking land area under cultivation such a massive construction activity can be the last nail in the coffin. But who cares! In last two and half decades of conflict people have turned insensitive to things around them. The way we take care of our water bodies, fields, forests, saffron land tell a lot about what we have become in this rat race called development. The argument that development is the need of the hour cannot set us free from our responsibility towards nature. We cannot keep ours eye shut and let nature bleed. Without green cover Kashmir is just another place on earth. What made it special are the bounties of nature that our forefathers have preserved for centuries and passed on to our generation. But we are bad custodians. We have exploited nature to the point where we are in no position to pass anything to our next generation. Preserving nature is now confined to seminar rooms and online debates only. In real world we have ceased to enjoy nature. We are so occupied in our life that we completely forget what it is like resting under a Chinar or how a saffron flower smells! I know Kashmir is not Europe but we too are humans like them. Or aren’t we?

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