Routes to peaceful development: Environment

Bilal Ahmad Pandow

Shared understanding of environmental concerns is at the heart of trying to build a peaceful and border-free South Asia

The South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists (SAVAE) is over a decade old. Its background was the need for South Asian regional cooperation for the conservation of water and other environmental resources, and planning for the natural disasters that are now routine in this region.

For donors, in a conflict the priority is to safeguard human lives, and a significant portion of funding goes into advocacy for human rights. The idea of environmental conservation does not even figure in donors’ thinking.

One of the problems we faced initially was that we were working against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in the densely militarised region of Kashmir, which is claimed both by India and Pakistan. Our every move would be scrutinised by both governments, each suspecting that we were part of some underhand design on the part of the other. However, we remained resolute in our mission of conservation, which paid dividends, and our field operations and awareness-raising efforts have come to be well regarded by the region’s various stakeholders.

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