Let The Sia (Rose) Live: Save Siachen : International Mountain Day
by Ravi Nitesh
International Mountain Day (11 December) is being observed by the world. It comes a day after International Human Rights Day observed by the world. International Mountain day is designated by UN general Assembly in the year 2003 to make international community aware about the importance of sustainable mountain development. When it comes to talk about sustainable mountain development, we feel that it is important because millions of people are directly and indirectly dependent upon mountains. Human development in the new era is equipped with technology that again boosts for exploring the fields for minerals, metals etc and then again mountains get exploited. Also apart from this ‘development’ there is another ‘development’ that leads ‘conflict’ scenario, egoistic attitude of governments and insensitivity of common citizen that sometimes leads towards unnecessary and harmful activities and becomes cause of environmental degradation. It is relevant to express the concern over the fate of Siachen Glacier that is part of Great Himalayan range and need the attention of governments of India and Pakistan on both aspects of Environment and Human Rights.
It was already told and known that Siachen is one of the main points of dispute between India and Pakistan. It is a glacier range where both the countries deputed their armies to contest each other. It is one of the longest glacier approx 72 km long, in the Himalaya. On the ground of Peace and Human Rights, it is one of the issues to be attended with increased attention because deployment of men and materials on Siachen range is causing lot of problems on health and lives of soldiers as well as upon the glacial system itself. On one side where an extreme difficult condition of living on ice has become a reason of even permanently disablement of soldiers, on other side this permanent nature of deployment and its regular activities that is continued since 29 years is probably causing damage to environment.
In a study titled Climate data and modeling analysis of Indus region written by Dr Ghulam Rasul of Pakistan Metrological Department, it was told that glacier reduced by 5.9 km in longitudinal extent between 1989 to 2009 because of rising temperature and thinning of its ice mass evaluated at 17 percent.
On environment grounds, it can be understood by the fact that human waste disposal is a problem and therefore it lies there preserved. Interestingly, in his book ‘The battle of Roses’ , Harish Kapadia wrote that if every soldier created 100 gm waste daily, taking an average 800 soldiers on the glacier for 25 years , then total waste generated would be 7, 30,000 kilograms. Sadly, actual figures regarding number of soldiers and time of deployment is more than this and so the quantity of waste.
It is a fact that for cooking and heating purpose (because temperature goes down up to -50 degree centigrade), soldiers need flame and for this purpose, a kerosene pipeline has been laid over the glacier that pumps thousands of litres of kerosene and in case it get leaked/burst then it cause hundreds of litre of oil spillage that comes to Nubra river with the melting ice. Helicopters are used to supply necessary things on the glacier and that it again disturb the silence of iced glaciers. Colonel Pavan Nair estimates that about 200 tonnes of carbon di oxide released each day due to burning of fuel for cooking, warming and transportation of men and material by land and air.
Camps of army battalions can be identified just because of waste collections around. Human wastes packed and sealed inside the drums and rolled on ice that lives so many years. It was told that whatever goes to glacier never returns. In fact, bottles, cans, plastic and metals are deposited there in large quantity. Fire of bullets from both sides causes vibration and heat that is very dangerous for sensitive glacier environment.
All above points clearly disturb the very idea of mountain’s environment. It is true that with the development, man made things will affect the environment for sure but there are lot of things which can and should be stopped by all of us to make our mountains live. Siachen is one such necessary point where we clearly see the degradation and harm to environment by unnecessary deployment of troops. The name Sia (Rose) Chen (place) must get its real meaning and must be left by armies of both sides to let the mountain live.
Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam (India) and a core member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti