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Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Snouts in place, Kashmir glaciers lose thickness
A worrying thought is the impact of the glacier melts on agriculture and hydel power generation in Pakistan where water intensive farming almost entirely depends on the perennial flow from these glaciers
By Zubair A. Dar rinagar: The footprints of climate change are becoming increasingly visible in Jammu and Kashmir – a phenomenon borne out by a scientific investigation which concludes that glaciers are melting due to average temperature increase in this Himalayan region. The situation is particularly of deep concern for Pakistan, the lower riparian on Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers fed by glaciers in Kashmir. Interestingly, the glaciers are showing a differential response to increase in temperature even in the same micro-climatic regime, say scientists at Kashmir University. In a research study focused on status of glaciers, changes and causes, the Geology and Geophysics Department of Kashmir University further concluded that average precipitation in this Himalayan region has also shown a declining trend. The ongoing research study, funded by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) since 2006, focuses on two river basins – Suru, a tributary of Indus in Zanskar mountain range in Ladakh, and Lidder, a tributary of Jhelum river that runs south to north in Kashmir valley. Along with the Chenab, the Indus and Jhelum form the western rivers of the Indus basin and provide for Pakistan’s water requirements under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty. “We have studied data of the last 40 years. Fourteen smaller glaciers in Suru valley have already vanished and the overall loss is about 16.43 percent,” says Dr. Shakeel Romshoo, a System Analysis Expert and an Associate Professor at Geology and Geophysics Department who heads the ISRO funded project studying the effects of climate change in Jammu and Kashmir. Since 1969, the glacier cover in Suru Basin which has around 360 glaciers, has been reduced from 567 sq kilometers to 474 sq kilometers, Dr Romshoo says. “But different glaciers are responding differently to global climatic change. While the lengths of some glaciers have reduced, some have shown reduction in depth or thickness even if their snouts have remained in the same place as earlier,” he explains. The study shows that the length of Kangrez glacier near Parkhache village in Zanskar region has not changed. However, the glacier has shown almost 15 metre reduction in thickness. In other glaciers, named S1 and S3 in the study, the researchers noted a decrease of 1 km and 1.5 km in length The respectively.
Saeed and Pran
By Zulekha Qizilbash
Meeting her late grandfather’s best friend from college throws up some questions in a student’s mind
snouts of other glaciers, named S2 and S4, have shown no change in length but changes in thickness have been noted. “We have collaborated date from satellite imagery of past and present, data from metrology and hydrology and water discharge data besides collecting field data about these glaciers,” says Romshoo. In Lidder basin, the study found an increase in water discharge. Researchers link this increase to climate change that affects Kolhai Glacier that feeds the Lidder river. “Precipitation in Lidder basin is decreasing
while the temperature is increasing. As a result, water discharge in Lidder is also increasing. It is a safe conclusion that water discharge is increasing due to excessive melting of glaciers. There are also drastic changes in snowfall patterns in this basin,” says Romshoo. The study revealed that water discharge in the river has increased by an average of 2000 cusecs pr year since 1979. The characteristic temperature curve in Lidder valley too shows a steep upward trend. “The temperature increase in the basin over the last 100 years was one degree centigrade. The increase is more rapid in last 30 years,” says Romshoo. Out of the 24 watersheds of Jhelum River, Lidder is the only river that has shown an increase in discharge. The discharge in 19 others is already showing a decrease as pre-
cipitation in these basins is also decreasing. Researchers at Kashmir University say that the melting of glaciers at such a rate is going to affect different economic activities including agriculture and hydropower generation besides causing drinking water problems in some areas. Kolhai glacier also feeds ground water resources and its melting is bound to have an impact in Kashmir valley where the population uses water from natural springs for domestic use as well as agricultural purposes. However, a greater worry is the impact on agriculture and hydel power generation in Pakistan where water intensive farming almost entirely depends on the perennial flow from these glaciers. Scientists say that the increase in average discharge will eventually reach a peak before a downward trend brings the water discharge levels in these rivers plunging down, thus affecting agriculture and other economic activities. The writer is a journalist based in Srinagar. email@example.com
ligious belief we made haleem, egg sandwiches, and chicken bread. Fortunately, the dahi baras and friendship that was vegetable samosas saved the day. forged on the first day Although, being a perfect gentleof college and lasted a man, he did not make this mistake lifetime, that stood the obvious. The evening ended on a test of time, despite the high note and we promised to keep trials and tribulations thrown its in touch by the age old method of way by Partition: that is what deletters because he does not use scribes the bond between Pran email. He told us how he and nana Nevile and Saeed Ahmed Khan. Pran Nevile the great Indian exchanged letters until his death; writer and S.A. Khan, my late maletters he has saved till today. Reternal grandfather met and became membering his friend, he recalled friends while studying in Governhow nana had planned a trip to ment College Lahore in 1937. Delhi with another friend but sadly They remained friends until my death did not give him a chance. We found his remark about nana died in Nov 2000. Pakistani women very encouraging When they met again for the - citing the examples Asma Jafirst time in 1997 nearly fifty years after their last meeting it felt as if We had heard a lot about Pran hangir and Madiha Gauhar whom they had never been apart. Pran uncle from nana when he would he holds in high regard, he said he uncle mentions the details of this come and stay with us in finds them more liberated than meeting in the revised edition of Rawalpindi but never had the their Indian counterparts. Sitting across him I kept thinkhis book Lahore, A Sentimental honor of meeting Journey (Oxford University Press) him. He was a reing that if the common peoaccompanied by photos of their re- spected writer and ple of these union. we derived pleatwo countries Pran uncle had always wanted sure from the fact can sit and conto write a book about his memo- that he was verse with each ries of Lahore but whenever he vis- nana’s best other without ited Pakistan, he went to Karachi, friend. drawing swords deliberately avoiding Lahore so On March 14 why do issues at that his memories of the city he re- this year, my the government membered would remained un- younger sister level remain untainted until he could write a book announced that resolved? The about it. In the late 1980s he heard Pran uncle was great divide has from somewhere that his friend, in Islamabad for created a wide my grandfather had died. This the Sufi Confer- Pran Nevile and Saeed A Khan un ite d after fifty years in spurred him to write Lahore, A ence arranged 1997. chasm between families, friends Sentimental Journey, which he by Pakistan Academy of dedicated to his late friend (S.A. Letters and we would be going to and relatives which people try to meet him at his hotel. Unfortu- cross whenever the borders and Khan). However, as luck would have it nately I had classes at university so communication lines are opened. I was not my grandfather who had I asked my sisters to invite him for have met many people in Pakistan died but his younger brother. After dinner at our place. They met and who yearn to see the land of their invited him, and birth which they had to leave bethe book was pubhe kindly cause of partition and it is now lished Pran uncle agreed to come part of India; just like Pran Nevile visited Lahore over the next who yearned for Lahore. and asked an old Reaching an agreement acceptday. It was a friend to arrange very happy able to both sides can take decades for him to meet evening that but at least the people on both Saeed’s family; still we enjoyed in sides of the border can make efthinking that his his company forts to keep the lines of communifriend was no because of his cation open. Even after the death more. The mutual affable and of his friend, Pran uncle has tried friend located nana c h a r m i n g to keep in touch with us and his and informed him personality. birthplace; not categorising us as that his old friend an Nevile. He exuded ‘enemy’ Pakistanis, but as part of was coming to meet The writer with Pr warmth and love and the family of his friend Saeed. him shortly. The question that arises now is When he discovered Saeed was we felt overjoyed to be in the comstill alive, Pran uncle couldn’t con- pany of our nana’s old friend talk- whether, despite cross-border relatain his excitement. He presented ing enthusiastically about his past. tionships between friends and famnana with a copy of his book but Hearing him air his views on just ilies, this is a bridgeable divide, not before tearing out the erro- about every topic under the sun given that we are locked in battle neous dedication page. Their epic made the evening a very entertain- on so many fronts? reunion has been immortalised in ing one and time flew rapidly. Overjoyed as we were at his The author is a freelance the updated edition of this book, writer based in Islamabad published by Oxford University coming over, we made a foolish faux pax that day: forgetting his firstname.lastname@example.org Press.
A story of pain and hunger
By Sheher Bano hree months ago, Pakistan and India agreed that their border forces would release within 24 hours all fishermen from the other country arrested while fishing on the wrong side of the maritime border. They also agreed to exchange the boats confiscated during such arrests. Yet some 159 Pakistani fishermen continue to languish in Indian prisons, and 547 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails, says the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF). The Fishermen Cooperative Society has proof of the identities of 124 Pakistanis and 17 boats in Indian custody. The Society believes there are another 100 Pakistani fishermen in Indian custody, but has yet to confirm their identity. There are additionally199 Pakistani boats in Indian custody, and 350 Indian fishing boats in Pakistani custody. Dependent on the shared resources of sea for their livelihood, fishermen living in coastal areas along the Rann of Kutch lead a precarious existence. Not only are they at the mercy of the elements in their ill-equipped boats which have no radars or radios, but while out fishing, they risk violating the unmarked maritime border and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and being detained and imprisoned by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency
(MSA) and the Indian Border Security Force (IBSF). The affected families allege that these arrests are a thriving business in which the border forces of both countries are involved. They maintain that the moveable items are sold off, and the money distributed between the arresting parties. Each confiscated boat represents Rs. 5-6 lakh, including the cost of boat, nets, equipment and catch. The Maritime Security Agency (MSA) denies this, saying that the vessels, fishing
nets and stock remain in their custody until the court authorises them to auction off this stuff. The auction money is duly recorded, and the money is deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan, so there is no way that this money is embezzled by anybody, they say. Over the past 62 years, both countries have passed many declarations promising the early release of detained fishermen but these declarations are rarely implemented. The Consular Access Accord of May 25, 2008 makes it
incumbent upon both governments to “maintain a comprehensive list of the nationals of the other country under its arrest, detention or imprisonment; the lists shall be exchanged on 1st January and 1st July each year.” Occasionally, prisoners are also ‘exchanged’ under the Access to Prisoners Agreement. Bafflingly, when fishermen are released, they are sent all the way to Wagah border from where they have to travel all the way to their homes on the coastal areas. Their boats and
fishing nets are not released. The families of detained fishermen tell heart-wrenching stories of misery and pain. Sami Memon, spokesman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum told me that many children of such families in Karachi have been forced into begging. The community had hoped for the imminent release of Pakistani fishermen in Indian prisons — hope that was “again extinguished as the process halted once again after the Mumbai attacks of Nov 2008.” The arrested fishermen’s families live at or below subsistence level in slums, in thatched huts. Already politically and economically disadvantaged, they suffer psychologically as well. Illiterate, deprived of their main source of income, they depend on handouts from relatives or neighbours. Mai Aasi, a 90-year old widow, spends her days praying for the return of two of her sons and her son-in-law, arrested over 15 years ago by the Indian Border forces. She has since lost her eyesight. Her husband died soon after hearing about the arrest of his sons. Tears roll down her wrinkled face as she tells her story, reflecting the poverty and helplessness of a woman deprived of her sons who were also her bread earners. There is no financial support from the government for such families. Mai Aasi’s son Achar was the captain (nakhuda) of his boat. Crew members included his brother Siddique, brotherin-law (Hussain) and two other relatives. After his arrest, Achar’s wife Jannat went to live
at her brother’s house along with her baby girl of two months, now around 16 years old. The two women, holding up an enlarged picture of Achar, regularly attend rallies held to demand the release of detained fishermen . Dependent entirely on fishing, Jannat’s brother looks after his own family as well as his sister’s earning
Ibrahim Hyderi. Jannat believes that the Indian police tortured Achar and Hussain to force them to confess that they were smugglers. India’s snail paced justice system took 13 years to decide the case; the men were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment – after having already been in prison for that long. Now having only served two years of their sentence, they will
Engrossed in working for their livelihood, fisherfolk sometimes unintentionally cross the maritime border between Pakistan and India. If caught, they become like the hapless fish they pursue
Rs 100-300 per day to support eleven souls. Jannat contributes by making rilli (traditional patchwork); each rilli, completed in 15-16 days, brings her a meagre hundred rupees or so. They live in dismal conditions in a thatched hut of a katchi abadi, Charan Para-1 of have to wait for another 13 years before his final release. Jannat’s brother claimed that the men were arrested from Pakistani territory because he was on a small boat which could not have gone out to sea where the Indian maritime border starts. ”We are poor and resource-less,” he
said. “We cannot seek justice for them.” Achaar’s sister Sakeena (Hussain’s wife) lived for 15 years at various places, surviving on handouts by locals. She now lives with her mother Mai Aasi in Charan Para-2, Ibrahim Hyderi, in a hut donated by a local philanthropist. Sakeena has five sons and one daughter; the youngest child was two months old when Hussain was arrested. Living from hand to mouth, she has been unable to educate her children, although she has managed to married off one son and daughter. She suffers from kidney pain, heart trouble and constant headache, as well as psychological problems, but has been unable to afford treatment for herself or her son who has a brain disease. However, her financial condition is relatively stable now as three sons have taken to the sea, each earning Rs. 100-200 daily through fishing. Like Jannat, she also makes rillis to supplement the household income. They have had no contact with the men detained at Ahmedabad Jail, India, except for a letter received two years ago through a Muslim whose shop is in front of the jail. There have been no replies to their letters. The detained fishermen’s families complain about the government’s lack of financial or legal support. Most of their women addictively chew gutka and paan, have no education or health facilities, and are stigmatised due to their men being in prison. It is they and the detained fishermen who pay the price for the “political game” played by the two rival countries.
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