Code: 97
  Published Date:  Saturday, April 13, 2013

Devastated effects of Diversion of River Neelum

Javaid Ayub

Devastated effects of Diversion of River Neelum ( Kishen Ganga) in Azad jammu and Kashmir

(Iran's Environment News Agency) Concerns on Fish population
The upper reaches of river Neelum would be badly affected with the diversion ofthe river particularly during winter months. If we observe river coming from occupiedterritory and compare its volume with river coming from Azad territory, the volume of water is ten times high in segment of the river coming from occupied side. Thus its diversion will bring appalling effects on the overall environment of the Neelum valley, regionally and globally.
Deeper part of the Neelum river where brown trout (Centuries ago brought by Britishers, and is well established in river Neelum and its tributaries, and therefore its no more an exotic fish, rather over the centuries the genotypic and phenotypic changes have also taken place making it a regional fish, and therefore a study is vital to understand these changes.) is sufficiently available. During winter season the upper portion of the river Neelum gets freezes, in case of diversion during winter/lean period it is absolutely clear that twenty to twenty five kilometers of the river will be totally frozen and all kind of aquatic life whether micro or macro organisms will be entirely extinct. The area under discussion is a hot spot of the brown trout, and is serving as gene bank of the fish; secondly trout is darling of the anglers and tourists, and a source of livelihood for the local communities besides fulfilling their own protein requirements. Another very important and endemic fish of the river Neelum, Triplophysa Kashmiriensis, will be wiped out which is a global concern.
When water will be fully frozen or penetratingly drawn away it will also affect the side channels which are serving as breeding and nursing ground for the Fish. Moreover, it will create disconnect between river and confluencing spawning areas.
Impinge on Riparian Vegetation.
Local population’s one of the major sources of livelihood are their livestock, and these domestic animals are grazing along the river bank besides grazing in hilly pasture lands. These animals graze on right and left bank of the river Neelum, which is an excellent riparian vegetation comprised of amazing variety of plant sizes, colors, shapes, scents and combinations available almost round the year. Riparian vegetation became an unlikely issues a few years ago following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina around the world and super floods in Pakistan. There were some who believed the destruction to the entire region would have been less if the river land and swampland vegetation had been better managed over the years.
Riparian vegetation refers to the plant life and ecosystem that continue living alongside a watercourse. The immediate areas of rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes and streams are all considered riparian in natural world. Riparian vegetation is a vital area of concern for conservationists, since the health of the plant life can also give evidences to the health of the river course. Secondly, threatened specie of Musk deer feeds chiefly on Betula Utilis,Burj or burj patra, which grows along the bank of the river Neelum which is a unique characteristic, because generally it grows in alpine meadows. Musk Deer also feed on Skimmia laureola, Salix alba and Rosa moschata, which too grow along the sides of the river.
Additionally to protecting the water, riparian vegetation makes available a variety of benefits to local wildlife. Trees and various shrubs provide shelter and protection beside fodder and forage for domestic and wild animals. In addition, many plants common to the river neelum’s banks are a source of food for many insects and animals. The ability of many bank side’s plants to absorb polluted runoff is also of greatly beneficial to nearby animals, as clean drinking water is vital to wildlife’s survival. Wildlife restoration efforts are greatly linked with the presence of a healthy terrestrial ecosystem surrounding the upper part of the river.
It is feared that a stretch of 25 to 30 Km area in length and two meters of width on both sides of the river bank would be irreversibly affected in case of water withdrawn, leaving huge impact on livelihood resources of local communities, and their livestock and on wild flora and fauna. The loss of significant amounts of plants and other green species in the area will lead to significant soil erosion and a generally unstable land base.

Distress on Medicinal Plants.
Very important herbs and ferns are found growing in Neelum valley area, as well as many water-loving trees. Herbs are major source of remedy for the local population as they barely can afford to go hospitals located away from their area and on top of that during winter season, spread over four to five months there is no access, so by and large they treat patients with these herbs. Since, they have the indigenous knowledge about locally available herbs which are also tremendous source of earnings for them. With the change in water course many medicinal plants would also be eradicated. Since, Plants widespread in riparian systems frequently require great amounts of water, but are rooted on land and river water also help in maintaining micro environment and temperature. Distinct from aquatic plants, vegetation surrounding a water system must be based in soil but must have free access to water, in order to survive even away from riparian vegetation zone. The unique riparian vegetation systems of mountainous Neelum valley feature many different types of trees, including Deodar-cidar, kail, texus and Betula utilis beside huge medicinal wealth of various varieties.
Once the herbal wealth is gone the local knowledge of herbal medicine will also be badly impacted. Thus leaving irreparable loss.
Obligations of Multilateral Environmental Laws.
UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), reveals the theme “To preserve biodiversity and ecosystem and equitable sharing of the benefits from genetic resources.”
“Conservation under the Biodiversity Convention is to be achieved in two main ways. Firstly, the Convention emphasizes in situ conservation which proposes the conservation of genes, species and ecosystems in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties. In situ conservation implies among other things the development of guidelines for protected areas; the regulation of biological resources; the promotion of the protection of ecosystems, natural habitats and the maintenance of viable populations of species in natural surroundings; the promotion of environmentally sound and sustainable development in adjacent areas; the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded ecosystems and the promotion of the recovery of threatened species; controlling the risks associated with the use of living modified organisms; controlling alien species; seeking compatibility between present and future use; developing necessary legislation to protect threatened species or populations; regulating any processes or activities found to have an adverse impact; and providing financial support for in situconservation, especially to developing countries.
Secondly, supplementary ex-situ conservation outside the natural habitats of the protected biodiversity components is also proposed. Ex situ conservation requires the use of gene banks and zoological and botanical gardens to conserve species, which can contribute to saving endangered species. Ex situ measures are preferably undertaken in the country of origin. It includes a duty to maintain facilities for the conservation of and research on plants, animals and micro-organisms, to seek the rehabilitation of threatened species and their reintroduction into their natural habitats, to regulate the collection of biological resources from natural habitats forex situ conservation so as not to unnecessarily threaten ecosystems and in situ populations of species, and to provide financial support for ex situ conservation, especially to developing countries.
The Biodiversity Convention addresses a number of other issues. It provides , for instance, a duty on all member states to respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices. The implementation of Article 8.j has been addressed by the Conference of the Parties (COP ) in different ways. An ad hoc open-ended inter-sessional working group was established at COP 4 to give more importance to issues related to traditional knowledge. The Working Group is mandated with the task of giving advice on legal and other means of protection of the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. Further, COP 5 adopted a specific programme of work which aims at fostering the participation of local and indigenous communities in all aspects of the implementation of Article 8.j.
Kyoto Protocol to UNFCCC
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is an international environmental treaty .
“Efforts for global stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere; to ensure that food, water, energy security and economic development are not threatened. India and Pakistan are signatory beside 194 including 194 other countries.”
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance holds the unique distinction of being the first modern treaty between nations aimed at conserving natural resources. The signing of the Convention on Wetlands took place in 1971 at the small Iranian town of Ramsar. Since then, the Convention on Wetlands has been known as the Ramsar Convention.

The Ramsar Convention's broad aims are to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve, through wise use and management, those that remain. This requires international cooperation, policy making, capacity building and technology transfer.
India and Pakistan both are signatory and are abide by its obligations.

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