We say climate and environment are in crisis, the question is who has brought this ecosystem of ours to that? While we try to answer millions of questions around the environment, water, climate, melting of glaciers, and natural disasters, we often forget to recognize how our small contribution daily is shaping our planet. Today I am going to tell the tale of a stream that remained bread to my eyes. I grew up watching this freshwater stream, drank water from it, listened to its beautiful sound in summer times, and often dipped myself into it during the hot summer days. This stream and many other streams in and around this small village have shaped us for centuries.
As we know, water has shaped human civilization for thousands of years, human interaction with water has decided the fate of many great civilizations, massive droughts wiped out many of the nations – water remains one of the most important life-sustaining resources. The chapters of history tell us, these civilizations were advanced in the management of water – Although the water was the factor for such civilizations to thrive and progress, the same water at many times became a reason for their extinction. These rivers helped us grow the massive agricultural system. History also tells us how certain places were able to flourish due to adequate rainfalls and conducive agricultural land, while many places across the world failed to withstand harsh environmental conditions.
Our village, like many places in Kashmir, has been bestowed with many small freshwater streams by nature. These streams used to be full of pristine water which would flow the entire year. People would collect water to drink, wash and feed their vegetable gardens from the same streams. The name of the stream is ‘Sonne Meani’ meaning an avalanche of gold. Sonne Meani has in a true sense been and still brings gold to the farming communities living on its peripheries by irrigating their rice fields, vegetable gardens, and apple orchards.
Thus, taking care of each one’s survival. While this stream continues to supply us abundant water to survive till now, our interaction with it has changed, we no longer take care of it, instead, we are in full swing destroying it and killing it. With the increase in human settlements along its banks, people have turned this stream into a garbage dump. When temperatures increase, the flow of the water too increases the polythene, garbage, trashed stuff, and even used diapers could be seen flowing in its waters.
The flora and fauna of this stream used to be rich, the rainbow trout is found at most of the places in Shaliganga and other streams flowing here. Due to the continuous riverbed mining, use of chemicals to catch fish, and pollution, the stream is no longer a habitat for a variety of fish and other organisms.
This stream like several other streams flowing through this village irrigates hundreds of hectares of agricultural land, it is a lease to grow rice, maize, vegetables, and other plants, besides this, the water of Sonne Meani is supplied to several villages for drinking.
The war we have waged against streams in Kashmir has to end before we as a nation and people are subjected to extreme water scarcity. These water resources are the heartbeats that help us survive amid good and bad. The use of harmful pollutants is deteriorating the environment of our surroundings, the heaps of garbage are seen everywhere. We throw garbage in the green pastures, water bodies, agricultural land, springs, and water canals, turning them into huge garbage sites. The problem is worsening with each passing day as we increase the use of industrial goods packaged in plastic – this is the time to rethink our relationship with water in particular and the environment in general. Our current interaction with water is going to worsen the situation and the implications are going to be serious.
Sajad Rasool is a journalist based in Kashmir, he supervises Kashmir Unheard a community news outlet. Sajad is an Acumen India Fellow, Fellow at Reporters Without Borders, and Gather Fellow at Seeds of Peace.