Sustainable development may be the new underlying base of man-environment interaction throughout the world, but seemingly the state of Jammu and Kashmir is averse to adoption of such mantras in its developmental initiatives. Development to the emancipated minds of twentieth century means a dignified sustenance for human race, with a sense of absolute regard for nature. However in J&K unfortunately, it means clearing more and more forest and agricultural land for building ugly concrete structures, dumping sewage, waste water and polythene carry bags in water bodies and wetlands, polluting drinking water resources, promoting excessive human activity in fragile ecosystems and the like.
The ‘State of Environment’ (SoE) Report for Jammu and Kashmir State, a Government of India initiative is indicative of the apathetic attitude shown by various stake holders towards the ecologically fragile environment of the state. The report has presented a dismal picture of the enormous damage caused in the name of unplanned and ecologically hostile development. The extent and the pace of deterioration, as indicated by the report are gradually pushing the state towards an eco-disaster.
Globally, Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is considered to be a pre-requisite for undertaking developmental activities, regardless of the nature of the initiative. A state that supposedly is using all its resources to tap its tourist potential and boasts of identifying many new tourist spots across the Valley in the last many years, no environment impact assessment surveys have been undertaken in these sensitive places. Leave alone the recently identified tourist spots, the development of infrastructure for supporting the annual Amarnath Yatra has been aimed to put in place more and more concrete structures rather than exploring any eco-friendly means to cater to the needs of visiting pilgrims. The development of tourist spots like Dudhpathri is taking along the same lines. The concrete structures that have lately come up at the two most sought-after tourist spots of Gulmarg and Pahalgam have robbed these of the natural outlook to a great extent.
The tourist inflow around Dal Lake and the Mughal gardens needs to be regulated for the protection and conservation of these in the longer run.
Development of the Bund (Jehlum waterfront), undertaken by the previous regime was a well thought plan towards the conservation of river Jehlum, besides giving the city some semblance of attractiveness. The initiative should be further taken up for the entire course of the river, of course in a phased manner.
Developmental activities, in ecologically sensitive zones like the valley mandate a well thought-out, multifaceted and ecologically insightful plan envisaging a suitable, long term and sustainable development.