Nothing like a paki-whine to bump up a thread..
New fantasy on Jhelum river
The bogey of navigation on the Jhelum river is yet another impish idea floated by India in the name of welfare of the Kashmiris
By Arjimand Hussain Talib
India's Minister for Water Resources Saifuddin Soz -- who happens to be a Kashmiri -- has a dream for Kashmir's Jhelum river: he wants its historical glory to be restored. According to him, this can be done by introducing diesel-driven boats that are "a symbol of our civilisation".
Speaking at a press conference in Srinagar recently, Soz said he felt introduction of diesel-driven boats would help "promote" tourism in the state (the first stated objective of everything that is done in the Held Kashmir) and also introduce a "cheap mode" of transportation between the 170-kilometre long river stretch from Khanabal in South Kashmir to the Wullar lake.
Soz further said the reason he wanted to do all this was that "he wants to do something" for the future generations of Kashmir, which will "never forgive us if we failed in our duty to preserve the water bodies." But the question remains how would we be able to "preserve our water bodies" by introducing water transport?
In the same press conference, Soz urged Pakistan to withdraw its opposition to the Wullar Barrage Project that is being initiated by India in North Kashmir. But what has boat rides on the Jhelum river to do with the Wullar Barrage dispute between New Delhi and Islamabad? The bogey of navigation on the Jhelum river is yet another addition to the long list of impish ideas that are floated by India from time to time in the name of welfare of the Kashmiris, but are actually aimed at achieving something else.
The idea of using the Jhelum river for water transport, with its current water quantity and quality, defies both economic and aesthetic logic. The idea of introducing water transport on the Jhelum river is based on the assumption of dredging its silt out and availability of enough water to facilitate the travel of diesel-driven boats. Firstly, given the geographical location of the Jhelum river, its recurrent siltation is a reality that cannot be whisked away. Secondly, the mean amount of water available in the river throughout the year is insufficient to facilitate the travel of medium-sized boats.
Now if one were to assume that both these problems would be overcome by the use of small boats, many other questions arise. Considering the efficient passenger transport facilities between Khanabal and Srinagar and Srinagar and Sopore, an additional mode of transportation -- which is not only cumbersome but also geographically unfeasible for use by most people in the Held Kashmir -- is hardly required.
Why would people need to ride small boats that would be very slow in comparison with surface transport as well as highly time consuming? Does it make any economic sense to spend millions of rupees on dredging and running a few small boats to carry a few hundred people in a day? Moreover, if within a couple of years the train facility between Qazigund and Baramulla is going to provide a strong alternative to land-based transportation of goods and fruits in the Valley, what purpose would water transport serve?
A cost-benefit analysis of the project, considering that it is aimed at the promotion of tourism, also shows that it is unviable. The idea of joyride on the Jhelum river is fundamentally a flawed one, as the current quality of the river's water is unlikely to attract tourists. For today's tourists, the significance of a joyride on the stinky and polluted waters of the Jhelum river does not make much sense.
Almost the whole sewerage of the Srinagar city, as well as of the other towns situated on its banks throughout the Valley, goes into the Jhelum river. Also, the whole waste generated during the annual Amarnath Yatra goes into this river through the Lidder stream.(And thence to TSP )
So, why would tourists prefer a boat ride on the Jhelum river when better options are available to them?
Besides all these factors, the geo-political factors underlying this idea would make the condition of the Kashmiris even worse. Since this idea has the question of navigability attached to it, its planners would surely look for ways and means to not only further take up Wullar Barrage work with vigour but also create conditions for building more such barrages in the Valley.
The idea of water transportation on the Jhelum river will create a basis for New Delhi's geo-political strategists to manufacture arguments for improving navigation on the river and thus necessitate creation of more Wullar barrages. This would neither help the people of Kashmir nor the ongoing peace talks between New Delhi and Islamabad.
The bogey of the Wullar Barrage Project and its linking with the question of water transportation in the Valley needs very careful handling by Kashmir's ruling elite. Not only the Kashmiris, but also those who have planned the Wullar Barrage Project know the argument that the project is meant to improve navigation on the Jhelum river during lean season is nothing but a joke. It is now well known among the water resources management experts that the basic idea behind the Wullar Barrage Project is not navigation, but its use as a geo-strategic tool during negotiations with Pakistan.
There are people associated with the project who have also spoken of it being 'useful' in enhancing water intake for the Uri Power projects, which are run and used by the central government without helping Kashmir's economy in any way. To put the things straight, the idea of the water transportation on the Jhelum river in the current form is unfeasible to say the least.