Jammu & Kashmir’s pristine valleys ringed by snow-capped peaks have long lured travelers for ages with enchanting natural beauty. However the paradise on earth is now facing an invisible threat to its pride on purity, rapidly deteriorating air quality that poses existential dangers to the region’s ecology, public health outcomes & sustainability efforts.
Here, an explosion of private vehicles straining combusted with noxious fumes. Even remote villages remained not immune as some 94% households depended on indoor air pollution sources like fuelwood. Kashmir’s overdependence on chemicals for agriculture also contaminated water bodies.
In the capital Srinagar, commercial trucks and increasing number of LMV cars, Local emissions data reveals transportation alone accounted for 70% of PM10 and PM2.5 particulates – directly linked to respiratory illness & mortality risks.
Tourism attraction like Pahalgam depict similar threats as PM 2.5 levels spiked 900%. Surrounding traffic permeates pollution into the breath-taking but fragile valley, now exposing locals & travellers alike. Kashmir’s overall pesticide usage grew 36% as well, indicating unchecked agri-chemical contaminants entering food chains, water bodies & ecosystems.
The National Clean Air Programme’s (NCAP) latest pollution analytics for J&K present a concerning data – 11 out of 22 monitoring stations register critical levels across cities and rural areas. What were once disease outliers now stare at becoming the norm without resolute policy response.
However, Honorable LG J&K Sh. Manoj Sinha ji hold promise, with early analyses pointing to stabilising pollution across J&K. NCAP recordings show average annual PM2.5 levels dropped from 111μg/m3 in 2019 to a less hazardous 75μg/m3 amidst concerted governance efforts spanning 2022-24.
Srinagar’s smog density also declined nearly 30% as green mobility & emissions policies accelerate.
Encouraging steps to curb vehicular emissions via public transit upgrades, promote clean rural cooking, protect fragile ecosystems & coordinate cross-departmental environmental action have arrested pollution upticks across Jammu & Kashmir.
Notable interventions praiseworthy of the LG Administration’s vision include: fast-tracking Asia’s longest bi-directional Nashri-Chenani tunnel to curb highway disruptions, reviving Dal Lake through scientific conservation efforts, restoring the polluted Tawi River’s aqua life through community participation, launching emissions compliance drives & green mobility options under the Smart City mission.
Additional gains made across expanding organic agriculture, checking unregulated tourism footprint in sensitive zones and increasing penetration of clean rural energy have furthered sustainability targets.
No doubt, challenges remain in securing continued investment, ensuring last-mile reach & commitment for J&K’s hard-fought environmental gains. However, breathable air quality and ecological consciousness are now higher public priorities with growing participation.
Overall, the LG Administration’s purposeful coordination and data-backed governance offer hope against decades of adhoc neglect that commodified JK’s natural assets.
Jammu now has India’s largest fleet of 135 electric buses, part of the LG’s green mobility push. Metro Rail construction also began in 2022, set to eliminate 34,500+ tonnes of emissions annually. Further emissions policies remain necessary, but progress is tangible.
To curb vehicular pollution, Srinagar residents are also increasingly adopting bicycle services and electric buses introduced in 2023-2024 Only by the Current Administration under LG Manoj Sinha.
Over 39,000 people have registered for bicycle sharing services since their launch in May 2023, as part of the Smart City project seeking to reduce emissions and traffic. Additionally, 49 out of 75 new electric buses now operate on zero-emission routes connecting Srinagar with its out skirts. More charging infrastructure is underway, with potential future expansion.
Equipped with tech features and optimised for sustainability through LG Sinha’s initiatives, these new transit options can revolutionize mobility. As per estimates, bicycles replacing short-distance motorised trips yearly can yield Rs 1.8 trillion in energy savings and emission reductions.
DAL LAKE Known as the “Jewel in the Crown” of Kashmir, Dal Lake faces existential threats from sewage and waste dumping, encroachments, and pollution. Under LG Manoj Sinha’s directives, the Lakes & Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) launched a Rs.497 crore conservation project in 2022-23 – the first comprehensive restoration effort in over a decade.
Advanced deweeding machinery, modular treatment wetlands and scientific sensors now continually monitor and treat inlet channels along with lake waters. Houseboat waste generation also declined 60% from 2020 levels after strict compliance checks and installations of bio-digesters, even as enlarged sewage networks reduced external pollution inflows. The stabilization of weed mass area from 32sq km in 2019 to 20 sq km by 2024 indicates early signs of revival aided by public-private participation.
The treacherous Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, prone to landslides and weather disruptions, often hindered vital connectivity and economic lifelines between regions. Under the LG Administration, construction began on Asia’s longest bi-directional Km14 Chenani-Nashri tunnel, incluiding other small and micro small tunnels. Equipped with globally benchmarked ventilation systems, the tunnel network will eliminate pollution curses along the route – earlier exacerbated by idling trucks amid frequent closures. Improved all-weather connectivity can spur trade and enhance environmental oversight across J&K’s remote areas earlier cut-off frequently.
Originating from the Kali Kundi glaciers, the iconic Tawi River holds deep cultural significance in Jammu as sacred site for rituals and recreation. However, mushrooming illegal encroachments, dumping waste and unchecked erosion turned sections into toxic cesspools by 2021.
LG Sinha directed multi-departmental interventions from 2022 encompassing embankment restoration, evicting 500+ slum dwellings, mechanism river surface cleaning drives and strict anti-dumping vigilance. Consequently, dissolved oxygen levels display 60% improvement between early 2022 and 2024 – restoring aqua life and pride.
Under the SMART CITY MISSION, Jammu Smart City initiative, solar rooftops emerged on 92 government buildings by 2024 while 5000 LED lights cut annual emissions by 20%. Air and noise sensors now generate location-specific analytics to shape policy.
Srinagar’s Smart City upgrades also encompass installing technology-assisted water ATMs and eToilets for efficient, less polluting sanitation access. Projects like eBus Network, bicycle sharing network, improved drainage infrastructure and smart traffic systems – holding promising sustainability dividends.
To clear indoor air, the Union government’s Ujjwala scheme increased rural LPG connections 50% by 2024 as cleaner cooking alternatives gain acceptance. Vertical biogas plants leveraging farm residue also mushroomed across villages, leading to over 20% lower fuelwood-linked deforestation compared to 2022.
Kashmir’s agri-ecosystems also depict recovery with pesticide usage dropping 32% over 2022-24 as food safety awareness couples with renewed efforts to incentivise organic cultivation. Once dangerously overloaded waterbodies now benefit from enhanced drainage infrastructure and water rejuvenation projects.
Breathable air quality remains among the foremost priorities of my administration and we aim to rectify decades of adhoc interventions compounding the problem,( remarked LG Sinha at a public rally recently.) Beyond statistics, J&K’s future health, tourism potential and ability to unlock full economic output depends on getting pollution redressal right, he added.
J&K LG administration has doubled down on cross-department coordination and data-based environmental decision making with promising outcomes. Last-mile reach although mass awareness campaigns slowly make inroads into remote habitations.
However, having arrested J&K’s pollution uptick, the real test lies in sustaining hard fought gains across vectors. Continued investment backing for public transit infrastructure, strict compliance regimes for emissions and waste disposal norms, scaling clean rural energy and boosting ecological farming – these urgent actions warrant unflinching administrative focus.
For now, the region’s environmental health is growing in unexpected speed, LG Sinha’s green action agenda will surly help the Himalayan valley to regain its glory as a global nature friendly tourist destination.
Author is Kashmir Based Current Affairs Analyst, Columnist and Actively Engaged In Peace Activism.
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