Encroachments, pollution unabated on Jhelum embankment

Environmentalists concerned; authorities in slumber

KHALID GUL

Islamabad (Anantnag), Feb 6: Notwithstanding the Water Resources Regulation Act providing executive powers to the authorities to act against the offenders, pollution and massive encroachments in Jhelum-in South Kashmir areas is going on unabated.
 Spanning over 175 kilometers, illegal constructions dot the meandering banks of the river in many areas of Islamabad and Pulwama.
 Though many entry points on the river banks where illegal extraction was taking place have been sealed, but nothing concrete has been done regarding the demolition of illegal structures.
 Besides in absence of restoration measures and effective sewerage system, almost all the drains from Islamabad to Pampore flow directly into the river, affecting its flora and fauna.
 Construction of illegal structures, including concrete houses continue to galore the banks of the river near Khanabal bridge  in Islamabad, Guru, Bijbehara, Sangam, Halmula, Kakpora, Samboora and Padhgampura. The locals accuse the officials of allegedly being hand-in-glove with the encroachers.
 “It is ironical that despite our reminders, the authorities didn’t took action against the encroachers. Huge houses are being illegally constructed on the river bank and there is nobody to check it. The illegal constructions mock at the Government’s claims of undertaking restoration of the Jhelum. We will move the Court to save the river,” the residents of Bijbehara told Greater Kashmir.
 Pointing towards the houses on river banks, the locals said a few years ago, the spot was an open expanse of land. “It was a beautiful spot. We used to watch the clean waters of Jhelum flow from the banks. People of the locality and its adjoining areas used to organize picnics and functions there. Now it has been encroached and turned into a garbage dump. Besides the municipal authorities also dump waste here,” said Ghulam Qadir of Bijbehara.
 The locals said a land mafia was behind the Jhelum encroachment.
 The banks have been turned into a junkyard with tons of polythene, cardboard, steel and other scavenged items dumped on it. 
 Pungent smell has engulfed the whole locality near the river in Khanabal, Sangam, Awantipora and Kakpora as sewage of the illegal hutments directly flows into it. “If government is serious, let it investigate how the river bank has been encroached and take action against the accused and concerned officials,” said Abdul Rahim of Kakpora.
 Besides, raising structures thousands of trees have been planted on the banks even as the river continues to shrink.
 Environmentalists are concerned over Jhelum’s deteriorating condition. “Jhelum was the main source of drinking water for the Valley. The present rate of pollution from drains and dumping of garbage, including non-bio-degradable items has rendered its waters unfit for human consumption,”  Imtiyaz Ahmad Rather, an environmentalist said. 
 Imtiyaz said the dumping of large heaps of cow dung, waste of slaughter and tanning units on the Jhelum banks were washed into the river enriching its waters with harmful nutrients like nitrates, phosphates, sulphates and chlorides.
 “This has caused Eutrophication of the river. Recently, Azolla, an obnoxious weed has been found in Jhelum, which is gradually chocking its tributaries. Beatification of Jhelum banks in Srinagar city is not enough. Government needs to work out a comprehensive action plan to restore Jhelum,” he said.
 Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Chief Engineer, Mir Najibullah when contacted said, “It is a challenging project to revive Jhelum as it has been extensively encroached and silted up during past a few decades. But we have started the drive and with the Water Regulation Act in place, it has made the job relatively easier for us as we won’t have now to seek consent from police to file challan against the offenders. Due to the winter we could not demolish most of the structures on humanitarian grounds, but in the coming months we will remove all the encroachments, stop inflow of drains and dredge out the river and restore all its tributaries”.
 He said the department would cut all the trees on the banks of Jhelum from Islamabad to Baramulla.
 Najib said that they had already booked 159 offenders indulging in illegal extraction and produced challan against them in the court and had also sealed all the entry points on the river banks.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST




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