The Jammu and Kashmir government is bringing legislation in the assembly for the preservation of the state’s heritage.
Chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad made this announcement on Saturday in response to a suggestion by Union Minister for Water Resources Professor Saifuddin Soz.
Both Azad and Soz were speaking in a high profile function held at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar on Kashmir Heritage Day on Saturday.
UNESCO and Peoples’ Empowerment Mission (a non-government organization) had organised the function jointly. Director UNESCO Minja and prominent environmentalist Shyam HK Chainani, honorary secretary of Bombay Environmental Action Group, among others, participated in the function.
“I am seeking the legal advice and assistance of Mr Chainani. He is a great expert on heritage. We should have a law to preserve our heritage”, Azad said. He lamented that the migration of Kashmiri Pandits, unplanned constructions and uncontrolled expansion was threatening the very character of Srinagar city. “We need it check it through law”, he said.
“It has been my personal desire to revive the pristine glory of all heritage sites in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir”, chief minister said and added that he has already started the work on preserving the state’s old buildings and palaces heritage.
“I have started it from Jammu. We have declared the Hari Nivas Palace as our heritage. I could not do it in Srinagar as different people here have different agenda. Yahan har qadam phoonk phoonk ke uthana padta hai (we have to tread here very carefully)”, he said.
He said that Srinagar was a living heritage, but the Dal Lake, which is the face of its beauty, has reached a dead end and "we all have to combine our efforts to revive all water bodies and other sites for which Kashmir is famous world over. Dal mar chuka hai. Iss ko har haal mien bachaya jana hai” (the Dal is dead. It needs to be protected at all costs), he said.
The Dal lake had been a major attraction for the outside tourists in Srinagar. However, the uncontrolled human interference, encroachments, silt accumulation and inflow of pollutant material in the world famous water body has squeezed it from the original area of 75 sq km to 11.75 sq km.
The dying lake got a fresh lease of life when J&K High Court, early this year, put the government on notice to take every measure to preserve and protect it.
Around 4,00,000 trees were felled inside the water body by the authorities under the orders of the Court. The Court also directed the Divisional Commissioner to define and demarcate the territorial limits of the Dal and adjacent Nageen Lake.
"The Dal cannot be saved in the Court room only," Saifuddin Soz said while speaking in the function. "It needs a strong political and peoples' movement," he added.
"Outside visitors do not come to see our buildings and houses here. It is the water bodies of Kashmir, which attract them. But our lakes are dying. If the trend is not curbed, we will lose all our attraction for the world," Soz said.
"Our heritage has no legal protection. I wish that a law is passed in the state assembly for the preservation and protection of our heritage," the Union Minister said.
Soz also declared the Jamia Masjid and Khan-e-kahi-e-mohalla, as invaluable part of Kashmir’s heritage and asked for the preservation and protection.
Professor Soz advocated for promotion and plantation of majestic Chinar, which has symbolised the beauty of Kashmir for centuries.