SRINAGAR, May 28: It has been four years since Army vacated Tosh Maidan, Kashmir’s biggest meadow is still posing a threat to people due to unexploded shells.
Tosa Maidan is the biggest meadow in Kashmir and nestled in the Pir Panjal mountains of district Budgam.
In 1964, it was leased to Indian Army as a firing range for conducting artillery training. The military exercise came at a huge human and environmental cost. The firing range became a death trap for the cattle grazing communities as 66 people have lost their lives and scores have sustained injuries due to explosions of shells.
However, after much hue and cry over civilian killings, the then government led by Omar Abdullah in 2014 did not renew the lease to the Army and was handed over to J&K administration in 2016. The Army has also claimed that it was cleared from unexploded shells. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had said that Tosa Maidan will be explored as a prime tourist destination.
Despite that several blasts have taken place since 2018, which restrict people from visiting the famous meadow. The latest incident happened two days before when three people got injured by the explosion.
“Out of 20 zones at Tosa Maidan, Army has issued NOC that 18 zones are safe. Recent blast took place at the area which was declared safe. We fail to understand how the blast occurred,” chief patron of Tosa Maidan Bachav Front-TBF Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool told news agency KINS.
He said, “Many people with vested interests could have hired miscreants to spoil the Tosa Maidan image as the potential of the destination could have made it reach flourish into world’s best adventure destination. It is not only a trouble created against the livelihood of poor living on the foothill villages of Tosa Maidan but also a humanistic crime against the whole of humanity.”
Tosa Maidan Bachav Front has demanded a probe into the blast that took place recently.
“It is for the 2nd time that the blast has happened first being in 2018, though the involved area was declared as safe and sanitized zone of Tosa Maidan, the unprecedented incident has produced suspicion. The affected area in which the blast took place was always seen safe, even when the Army drills were stipulated in firing practice,” said Molvi Maqbool Spokesperson of TBF.
People living around Tosa Maidan hope that the meadow being covered with mountains and enriched by green forests can be developed as a tourist destination.
At the top of the Pir Panjal range, there are a number of passes leading to the Poonch Valley. The most often used pass is called Chinamarg Gali, once known as the Tosa Maidan pass near the Danam Sar Lake.
“Army has vacated Tosa Maidan still unexplored shells continue to threat the lives of people. Government has failed to explore the beautiful meadow and to bring it on tourism map,” said Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Khaag.
“Tosa Maidan is important in terms of ecology and biodiversity,” says Akhtar H Malik, a researcher at the Kashmir University. “Tosa Maidan remained untouched for researchers to carry out scientific study of local biodiversity due to fear of shelling. Shelling over the years led habitat fragmentation and soil erosion in this meadow, with the result number of plants got locally extinct which were used by the local people for different purposes,” he told news agency KINS.
Malik said it is not a border area but a hidden treasure of meadows, forests, mountains and perennial water bodies.
Bounded by dense forests, the Tosa Maidan meadow is situated about 10 km from Khag at the foot of the Pir Panjal range. After crossing the upper mountain reaches of Drang, Zakhora and other small villages, one reaches the pasture of Tosa Maidan.
It is the largest pasture in its surrounding areas, 3 miles in length and 1.5 miles in width.
Tosa Maidan and the adjoining areas are perennial sources of water of local lake known as ‘Shup Nag’ which is situated at the higher reaches of this meadow and gets bifurcated into small rivulets and streams as: Nalah Sukh-Nagh, Doodganga Nalah, Suresh Kulh and Googaldara Nalah respectively, which provide water to district Budgam, Pattan, Tanghmargh and also to some parts of Srinagar city, where it is used for irrigation and drinking purpose.(KINS)