Black valley

Experts say that intense shelling during the recent Indo-Pak conflagration in Kargil had a disastrous effect on the environment

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Camouflaged:the heavy shelling a major factor responsible for India's victory in Kargil was the use of heavy artillery guns, especially the 155 mm Bofors howitzers. Now, experts say that these guns are responsible for the environmental disaster in the war-torn area. The heavy shelling, both from the Indian side and across the border, has transformed the snow-capped peaks. According to estimates, several tonnes of explosives used during heavy shelling has contaminated the snow and in the process will contaminate the rivers, says a recently-returned reporter from Kargil.

"It is going to be very difficult for the army personnel, posted in this area, to survive. It will be worse for people living in Drass because they depend on snow-fed rivers. Water from these rivers is used for irrigation and in some villages for drinking purposes," says another reporter.

There are a number of streams, originating from the mountain peaks which are covered with snow for almost nine months a year. Although they are very small and the quantum of water is not much, yet these help in irrigating the vast stretches of agricultural land in Drass, Pandrass, Matayan and Chokyal. For instance, the Tololing Nullah originates from Tololing ridge and the Mushokoh Nullah originates from the Mushokoh valley. The Saffeed Nullah also originates from the Mushokoh Valley and joins the Drass river. These tributaries are the main source of potable water for the people residing in Drass area.

However, the Kargil episode has clogged these streams, restricting the water flow. Experts feel, that the snow melted due to an increase in temperature as a result of extensive heat generated by explosives. "The hazardous sediments left by explosives have now contaminated the mountains, slopes and gorges. Later, the remains of the explosives will mix with the snow. Next summer, these sediments will be carried downstream by the snow-fed rivers," says Masood Hussain, recipient of a unesco- sponsored award for best environmental journalist.

Environmentalists believe that the conditions in Kargil are akin to those in Siachen and the two "battle-fields" are threatened by the same problem. For instance, 12 tonnes of food packed in aluminium foil or tetrapacks are sent to Siachen every day. These foils are later dumped in the open. Similarly, the presence of polythene bags are playing havoc with the environment.

Experts add that the environmental impact on snow-clad peaks in Kargil will be a more disastrous than in Siachen. According to them, only one brigade is posted in Siachen and they require 12 tonnes of food. But in Kargil, the troop concentration is higher. Therefore, the food requirement is more. Like Siachen, in Kargil too, polybags cannot be burnt or destroyed. Ultimately, they, would be dumped. Polythene bags are known to block tributaries and hinder water flow.

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