A growing number of clerics in the mainly Muslim region of Kashmir are promoting eco-consciousness to the local population through appeals aimed at their faith.
Srinagar, the largest city in the Indian state Kashmir, has been severed by the decades-long Kashmir conflict, which has escalated into wars between India and Pakistan and several other armed clashes, including China.
Under these conditions, the regions imams and mullahs are promoting the benefits of ecological preservation in the hope that region can remain livable, despite the ongoing conflict.
“We need to follow the teachings of Islam to practice sound ecology in our valley,” say the clerics, who also say that after years of conflict, which has nearly destroyed much of the region’s natural beauty, the locals of Srinagar have more faith in religious leader to protect their ecological and cultural heritage than they do the government.
Recently, the locals blame the government’s apathy and widespread corruption for the dumping of sewage into Srinagar’s iconic lake, an event that had a devastating effect on the lake’s numerous houseboats, as well as the vegetable sellers who make their living along the lakeshore.
This has been compounded by the fact that the local security forces have cleared vast tracts of forestland to prevent Islamic militants from finding refuge in areas where the military has difficulty operating.
“The government is working tirelessly to boost Kashmir’s economy through tourism and the environment. Years of conflict have derailed the state.”, said a local government official.
The citizens, however, remain distrustful of government programmes as they see them as empty promises and have taken the issue of environmental protection into their own hands. The Rishis – a Vedic term for an accomplished and enlightened person – would plant fruit-bearing trees wherever they went, based on their view that religion should primarily focus on man’s treatment of his fellow beings.
Scientists are also working closely with religious scholars and Kashmiri clerics to organise conferences devoted to the environment and the role of religion in its preservation.
Kashmir’s citizens say they hope that their example will be proof that even in a war zone, people are becoming more aware that their life depends on making their own decisions, including when it comes to preserving the environment around them.