Positives of Pandemic: Clean Air, Clear Sight, Crystal Water in Kashmir

With mornings welcomed by bird tweets, mountain ranges visible, the air clean and the murky blue sky showing its original colors, the lockdown might’ve proved to be a bane for human beings but it has turned out to be a boon for the environment.  

By Swati Joshi

SINCE industries are majorly shut and vehicular movement minimal, the pollution level has greatly reduced in Kashmir during the pandemic, says a scientist of the J&K State Pollution Control Board.

With the result, the sight of Pir Panjal range which was already visible from Srinagar became more vivid and worth watching amidst the lockdown.

“Kashmir Valley has seen changes in the environment during the pandemic,” said the scientist. “While the usage of water was the same but the load on the Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP), especially at Lassipora was less during the lockdown.”

Suhail Bashir, an environmentalist from Srinagar, said due to the pandemic the concentration of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and Sulphur oxide (SOx) was reduced in the air.

As most people stayed home, the number of oil barrels used in Kashmir reduced by 1-2 barrel as compared to 100 barrels used before the lockdown, he said.

The pollutants from the air get accumulated on the surface of plants which reduced the process of photosynthesis, the environmentalist said. “But with a reduction in the amount of pollutants, the plants are thriving without any interruption.”

Apart from air, the dumping of solid and liquid waste has also decreased in the valley.

“Liquid and solid waste from factories have stopped which has led to a positive impact on the environment,” said Touseef Ahmed, Chairman of Kashmir Concern, an environmental conservation organization.

There’re more than a dozen rivers, lakes, and wetlands that are used for dumping Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Kashmir, he said.

“Most of the wetlands, lakes and deep drains had become choked and resulted in constant waterlogging during rain and snowfall.”

Civic authorities who are supposed to implement MSW Rules 2016 are themselves involved in dumping municipal waste in wetlands and water bodies, he said.

Ahmed who has been working on waste disposal for a long time, said that over the last six years, his research has led him to file several petitions in National Green Tribunal (NGT) and other quasi-judicial forums.

The NGT’s intervention has shown some positive results as a committee headed by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir has been constituted to look into the destruction of water bodies especially due to the dumping of MSW, Ahmed told Kashmir Observer.

Revival of Nature

As people mostly remained indoors, many species of animals and birds were spotted in Kashmir after a long time.

In a first, the Wildlife Department was able to capture 10 majestic Hanguls in camera in Shikargah wildlife sanctuary of the Tral area of South Kashmir. Also known as the Kashmir stag, the critically endangered species is the only Asiatic survivor of the European red deer.

The flight operations were postponed during the lockdown which helped the bird’s species to thrive.

According to a research by Norbert Kempf and Ommo Hüppop, disturbances can influence the time and energy budget of birds and hence, for example, the ability to lay down fat reserves for migration and breeding.

“The most positive impact of the lockdown is that people have started appreciating the environment and they are finding ways to protect it,” Ahmed said.

“With the availability of clean air, new species of birds and a clean environment, people are encouraged to take steps to curtail activities which deteriorate the environment.”

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