Kashmir: Brought by the Flood

Will the lessons brought by the latest Kashmiri floods be understood?

kashmir-flood

Credit: http://www.kashmirobserver.net

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — September 2014 will be remembered in the greater Kashmir area for the worst floods in more than a century, with one million people displaced, hundreds of confirmed victims and incommensurable material destruction.

As a United Nations special report released on September 17 revealed, natural disasters displace four times more people now than they did back in 1970, South Asia being one of the most affected regions.

Demographic pressure, unplanned flood area occupation, drying of marshlands that work like a natural sponge or deforestation are all human-made factors crucial for the dimension of the disaster.

And yet, for all the corrections we have to introduce to past human misdeeds, no durable solution can be envisaged without a proper monitoring, planning and management of the vast water resources of the region, something requiring a great sense of cooperation and acknowledging that nature is not bound by any political demarcation line.

South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) has dedicated so far a considerable amount of attention to the topic of regional co-operation in the management of natural resources, namely water. We we have been very positively surprised by the existing high consciousness – including among the general public, as our surveys on Nepal and Bangladesh confirmed – of the need for regional cooperation to confront these natural catastrophes.

Whereas in the Indian side of the border military and civil official structures have been responsible for most of the relief operations, on the other side most of the relief has been delivered by militant organizations, mostly organized in the “United Jihad Council” an umbrella association of several armed groups that demand an Islamist unified regime across the region.

To effectively prevent the devastating effects of natural disasters as this one across the region, it is crucial to realize that only co-operation between all of those who inhabit the region will serve the interests of its population, regardless of their religious beliefs.

READ  My Incredible Trip from Pakistan to America

The replacement of the concept of “water jihad,” very popular among the religious confrontational movement, by a perception of the urgency of a river basin-based management of water, is the message brought by these catastrophic floods that need to be taken with the best attention.

Only when European leaders from both sides of the Rhine acknowledged that working together, pragmatically on concrete issues with small but constant steps, did Western Europe overcome a dark heritage of centuries of conflict. This lesson, according to us, has a universal value.

SADF has been promoting the discussion and the dialogue on water with several organizations across South Asia and expresses its availability for participating in any initiative across the Kashmiri demarcation line to allow the lessons of the present catastrophe to be acted upon.

Paulo Casaca is Executive Director of South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF). Read other articles by Paulo.