Adeela Hameed

The Diminishing Golden Sheen of Sonamarg

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For thousands of years nature decorated every fragile crevice with style and pride. This generosity converted defying culverts into majestic valleys and constricted wilderness to a cage worthwhile. Commitment of delivering the best made nature realize the importance of a supreme creature who would safeguard earth and at the same time benefit from it. So a human being was created as a caretaker and benefactor. But with him, came a jest for survival and gradually this turned into a battle; a battle between consciences, between souls, between bodies of different purpose but in general a fight for achieving the best. This spirit inculcated a desire to seek, reform, and mould lifestyles in one’s own way, be that at any cost; even that of a life. With the standard of living undergoing a dramatic transformation, the environment started to change. The being Nature had decorated with a supreme title began condemning his duties to satisfy an unending thirst. His strength aimed at destroying the very own nest that comforted and lullabied him when unripe. He unintentionally became the weapon of his own extinction.

Kashmir and its humans

The power and swiftness of tyranny reached every part of the world and with it came lust. Slowly this parade of cruelty gained momentum and treasures of earth were looted ruthlessly. People developed tactics to over-utilize resources thus, benefiting their self interests. This ferocity of events even reached the sober, delicate valley of fakirs and Sufi saints. It reached Kashmir. A valley of pristine beauty and privilege, and mellow merriment was converted into a sabotaged garden. Human interference with natural laws completely overturned the fate of this paradise. Warm clustered hamlets, ferocious waters, robust foliage canopied over mountains of raw fleshy soil, all of which defined Kashmir, were lost in the maze of devalued wisdom. Stealthily humans carved their niche inside the heart of this heaven. They started growing, grooming civilizations to multiply. But all this would have been fine had not humans craved for more and given in to their endless greed.

The lost and forgotten

The worst affected in this disaster were meadows and mountains of pleasurable comfort, one of them being the golden meadow; our Sonamarg. This tranquil landscape, guided by the mountain passes of Silk Route, protected by river Sindh and besotted by pines, firs, birches, junipers with a variety of wild berries, and galvanized by the sun, turning it into a golden idol of nature, was hit hard. One could go on describing Sonamarg like never before but modern era put to limelight a rather horrifying ordeal. Destruction of Sonamarg at the hands of humans! The meadow has been converted into a carcass of broken hope.

Mushrooming population has been the prime cause of Sonamarg’s desecration. Associated with this is an increased exploitation of natural resources through deforestation. Nomads as well as the local population engage in lumbering and illegal smuggling of timber. These activities further result in imbalance of the local environment which unfortunately has disastrous consequences. Rapid human settlement in areas where young pioneer species, i.e. those species of plants that first act as a source of life in an otherwise dead zone, grow has traumatized natural vegetation. Apart from this, wildlife of these forests has been rendered homeless and hungry explaining vicious attacks on human population. The issue of man-animal conflict should not be ignored. It should be well understood that wilderness is the only shelter for wild. And once destroyed, takes millions of years to replenish and thousands of deaths to live with.

Construction of motels and guest houses in and around Sonamarg has led to irreparable loss of its natural flora and fauna. Sewage and kitchen waste disposal into the water bodies surrounding Sonamarg has been a despicable hazard. Commercializing this meadow for personal gains is the highest degree of disrespect towards its environment. Loud motor vehicles and trucks loaded with excavated sand have increasingly brought pollution inside the premises of Sonamarg. Now even strolling along the meadows results in numerous medical ailments. All because of elevated quantities of pollutants and suspended particles present in the atmosphere of this ‘health’ resort. Indecent littering and excessive use of polythene products has had cancerous effects on the soil in Sonamarg. And on top of everything, unwarranted grazing of cattle has further decelerated renewal of its resources. Indifference on part of government and other public organisations has escalated problems for the Sonamarg community.

Sonamarg is losing its glory. Bulldozed by selfish human interests, this beautiful meadow has been abandoned and left to ‘walk the plank’ towards its untimely demise.

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