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World Water Council predicts grim future of glacier-fed water resources in Kashmir

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Apr 12: Rapid and unplanned urbanisation taking place in ecologically fragile mountainous region of Kashmir may lead to grim future as far as the supply of potable water is concerned, a recent study has shown.
The study ‘Urbanisation and water insecurity in the Hindu Kush Himalaya: Insights from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan’ collectively carried out by four environmental researchers Sreoshi Singh(Nepal), S M Tanvir Hassan (Bangladesh), Masooma Hassan (Pakistan) and Neha Bharti (India), was published in ‘Water Policy’, the official journal of the World Water Council, in February this year.
The study reflected the impact of urbanisation and activities like migration, tourism and religious pilgrimage in the Himalayan regions of their respective countries.
It said the urban areas in the mountains of Kashmir and that of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal largely depend on springs and river water, the source of which is snow and glaciers.
“But as these sources are snow and glacier-fed, the impact of climate change may affect the quantity of water available from these sources, leaving groundwater sources as more critical for these cities in different seasons,” the study reads.
“The entire Himalayan region is spread across an area of 4.2 million square km across eight countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, sustains the livelihood of 240 million people. It is also the source of 10 major river basins and home to four of 36 global biodiversity hotspots,” it added.
In Kashmir, the study claims that well-established tourism sector enforced migration of people from rural areas, thereby exerting tremendous pressure on these urban centers.
“Housing demands are increasing and this necessitates acquisition of agricultural lands and forests, which leads to environmental damage and affects other natural resources, particularly water,” it said.
The study said that the smaller settlements, market towns remain unclassified as urban centers in the Himalayan regions due to which no proper planning is done to tackle environment disasters.
“In the mountains, smaller settlements like district headquarters or market towns perform a number of functions typical of an urban center. However, they are not formally classified as urban centres because they do not meet the nationally set criteria. This calls for a mountain-specific definition of urban areas, which takes into cognisance mountain specificities like fragility, limited water sources and remoteness,” it said.
The study highlighted that the water crisis becomes eminent during dry season particularly in cities of touristic importance.
“As local water sources have shrunk over the years, urban authorities have been compelled to augment supplies by developing planned water supply systems from other distant sources, like rivers, surface water bodies, etc. Several parts of these urban centres are also unserved due to lack of sufficient water in the sources,” it added.
The study called for long-term strategies such as mountain-specific urban planning which takes into account “the myriad fragilities of mountain ecosystems and ecological restoration of forested uplands that feed the urban water systems.”
“Without long-term and sustainable urban planning and accountability of the stakeholders, many of these urban centers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas are poised for a grim water future, which will only be exacerbated by climate change,” it added.


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UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman

Press Trust of India

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”

“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.

On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.

“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.

Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.

“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.

The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.

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Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York

Press Trust of India

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NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.

The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.

Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.

The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.

, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.

Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.

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Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report

Agencies

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The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.

The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.

“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.

The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.

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