Gulmarg stares at environmental disaster

Srinagar, September 20 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, an imminent environmental disaster is in the making in famous ski-resort of Gulmarg where the Indian Air Force is planning to set-up a radar system in the protected wildlife sanctuary area, apart from constructing a helipad in the forest area, on around 14 hectare land.

A Srinagar-based English daily Greater Kashmir quoting official documents, it accessed, reported that the radar named ‘air defence sensor and weaponry’ is proposed for construction in the protected area of Gulmarg wildlife sanctuary and for this, at least 1.18 hectare land is proposed to be notified from the protected area network and 12.35 hectare from the territorial forest division (Jhelum Valley division) of Baramulla district in northern Kashmir.

The daily maintained that estimated at Rs 300 crore, the ‘mountain radar project’ is part of the India’s ‘national defence modernization’ plan aimed to enhance air defence capability in the mountainous terrain of northern and eastern areas.

A communication by the IAF to the administration of occupied Kashmir said that the project was required for better radar visibility inside Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. It said that there was no service available in the region to track the aerial activity in the AJK region.

Officials who spoke to Greater Kashmir on the condition of anonymity said that three sites had been analyzed to assess suitability for deployment of the new generation mountain radar. These include Mount Apharwat, Raj Rifles and Botapathri.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have said that the project could be disastrous for th ecosystems of the region. They stated that these fragile ecosystems, if disturbed, take hundreds of years to recover and the disasters such as flashfloods, water shortage and climate change are some of the serious impacts of disturbing these ecosystems.” They said that the project, if implemented, can be an “environmental disaster” for Gulmarg.

“The project will have huge ecological and socio-economic impacts for the region. First, it will destroy the pristine natural environment of Apharwat Mountain, which harbours a rich biodiversity,” said an environmentalist, who wished not to be named.

Subalpine and alpine ecosystems in Gulmarg are among the most important ecosystems of Jammu and Kashmir, dominated by alpine meadows, rocks and glaciers, high-altitude lakes and the sub-alpine scrub.

“These ecosystems are critical for water recharge, keeping intact the glaciers and are rich in biodiversity especially the rare medicinal plants and the unique mountain fauna,” the environmentalist said.


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