The challenges and threats of global climate change are well known. The shifts in the ecological patterns of the IOJK is an emerging trend in the international environment security paradigm, that has serious implications for maintaining environmental security in IOJK. Kashmir Conflict, “a regional conflict with global implications,” has been a significant issue, with the Indian Army’s large-scale presence in IOJK deteriorating the ecology. The environmental cost of the decades long, protracted conflict, reflects the inhuman use of heavy weapons (also accused of utilizing chemical weapons) by the Indian Army against the occupied, innocent Kashmiris and freedom fighters.
The Indian Army and CRPF engage in artillery attacks against innocent Kashmiris in the name of counter- terrorism operations, using various weapons such as Kalashnikov, Bulgarian AR-M1, Mpi KMS-72, Md.90, Md.63 Fixed Stock AKs, Russian AKMS, and captured Type 56 Assault Rifles. Other weapons used include, indigenous INSAS, 1B BREN LMG’S, Tavor rifles, Pika General Purpose Machine Guns, M4A1, Galil SAR Carbines, MAG 2A1, MP-5, MP-9, Uzi Submachine Guns, C-90, Shmel Thermobaric Rocket launcher, AGS-30, X-95 Carbine, Multiple Grenade Launcher 40mm, and Sniper Rifles like SVD Dragunov, Galatz and Ishapore.
The destruction caused by these weapons following opens fires by the Indian Army in IOJK is so immense that it does not only kills innocent Kashmiris but also cause massive infrastructure and property destruction. The 1990 Handwara and Cheenichowk Fire, the 1993 Lal-chowk and Sopore Fire and the 2001 Palhallan Fire cannot be forgotten as they marked the horrid events of mass destruction of civilian properties in IOJK in the early 1990’s. These intentional, damage inflicting activities by the Indian Army have rendered thousands of Kashmiris homeless, and deteriorated the climate patterns of the region as well.
Over the years, frequent use of guns by Indian army in IOJK, has posed a greater environmental crises that looms over the region. Most of these weapons are used for illumination and smoke screening purposes to target innocent Kashmiris. These weapons release harmful carbon monoxide pollutants, including copper, lead, carbonaceous material (e.g. soot) and other metals, causing harm to human health and the environment.
In the last two decades, the Indian authorities have converted the Kashmir’s green landscape into a military garrison. In the IOJK, forests have already been harmed following decades of conflict, political unrest, and a weakened administration. The Indian army is clearing forests for creating hideouts followed by intentional setting of forest fires to clear land to target innocent Kashmiris, in the name of counter-terrorism operations.
Deforestation amid illegal construction, timber smuggling has severely degraded the Kashmir valley’s forests. Pahalgam; a disputed region of J&K is home to coniferous forests that holds the most unique and beautiful species of the world including, Himalayan marmots, the orange-breasted Kashmir flycatcher bird and the Kashmir stag. The construction of resorts and hotels in Pahalgam are encroaching on forest and putting pressure on wildlife. Unfortunately, this unlawful activity occurred without much resistance as the Indian authorities in IOJK were primarily concerned with the so called security prospects.
India’s longstanding habit of pursuing its own military and strategic interests by peddling falsehoods has now facilitated its unlawful activities of deteriorating the climate of IOJK. To justify the unlawful construction and timber smuggling, the high court carried out a ruthless order of cutting down Russian poplar trees, as a result six lakh of the poplar trees were cut down across the Valley. Nevertheless, the objective behind this action was constructed due to the high yield of poplars and their intensive use in the timber and construction industry, they were projected “as a threat to human survival.”
In this era of increasing climate crises “military weapons have become a climate killer,” generating around 6% of global CO2 emissions. Emissions from the military equipment cause considerable environmental harm around the globe, the amount released varies on the duration of the conflict as well as the types of artillery used. In context of Kashmir conflict, The Indian Army’s use of heavy weapons in IOJK contributes to global climate change, incinerating the ecology of the region and increasing carbon footprints. The Indian military’s consumption of fossil fuels contributes to global warming while targeted bombings directly harm wildlife and biodiversity. Pollution which comes as a result of these attacks contaminates bodies of water, soil, and air, making areas unsafe for Kashmiris to inhabit.
Siachen Glacier, the largest glacier outside the polar regions and biggest source of fresh water in South Asia, is rapidly de-icing, posing a significant risk to climate change. The glacier’s retreat is estimated to be 110 metres per year. Reports also indicate that a sizable lake has developed in the centre of the Siachen Glacier, which the Indian army is now occupying. India deliberately claims that global warming is the main cause of the glacier retreat, but it is covering up the catastrophic environmental crime being committed by its army in the form of military activity, infrastructure development following cutting of glacial ice and huge explosive storages on the eastern side of the Saltoro Ridge. The Siachen Glaciers serve as the lifeline for the millions of people whose food security is dependent on Himalayan waters. Therefore, their deterioration would be detrimental to both food safety and global environmental efforts.
India is maximizing military might to sustain unlawful occupation over J&K. MORE ARMS MEANS MORE DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT. India dedicates huge budgets, investments and human capital, for weapons production which in turns drain the resources that are required to address the global climate change and achieving the SDGs. Prioritizing forestalling the climate crisis in the IOJK is crucial. However, it for the United Nations to strongly watch and scrutinize the Indian army activities in the IOJK, so that at least the environmental cost of the conflict can be preserved, if NOT the human and material cost.
The writer is a student of Peace & Conflict Studies at National Defense University, Islamabad and is currently serving as an intern at Kashmir Institute of International Relations.