Earth Day 2023… | NGT comes to the rescue of Poonch River!

Why isn’t the Govt proactive in keeping water bodies free from waste as Rs 5000 Cr budget has been allocated to PHE?
Earth Day 2023… | NGT comes to the rescue of Poonch River!
Pic: Author

The UN’s agenda to achieve sustainable development by 2030 under its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has given a great thrust on water and sanitation (Goal No 6). Under this programme nations have made a commitment to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030. This is the reason that under the Infrastructure category with a total capital budget of Rs 26013 crore for Jammu & Kashmir, 22 % of it will be used by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) -Jal Shakti Department for supplying safe drinking water to people.

For almost a year the PHE Jal Shakti Department has been busy laying new water pipelines across J&K under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) programme. I am unable to understand if such a huge budget has been allocated for supplying safe drinking water to people, why is Govt not serious about cleaning the drinking water sources as solid and liquid waste continues to contaminate our water bodies especially our streams and rivers wherefrom water is lifted by the PHE Jal Shakti department? Few years back this author had to move a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) as the drinking water source for a population of 5 lakh people in Srinagar’s uptown i.e Doodh Ganga continues to be polluted with solid, liquid and pesticide waste. The NGT even slapped Rs 35 Crores penalty on J&K Govt out of which Rs 3 crores were deposited in DC Budgam’s account by Geology & Mining Department , Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) & Urban Local Bodies Kashmir @ Rs 1 crore each which is to be used for cleaning of Doodh Ganga.

NGTs Intervention

In a landmark order to address the growing menace of dumping of municipal solid waste on the banks of Poonch river, the four member bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently sought a detailed report & remedial measures taken to address this issue from District Magistrate Poonch and J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC). The NGT order comes in the wake of a petition moved by this author last month. The NGT has also sought a compliance report from PCC in response to its order dated 20.10.2022 in the case no (OA-606) of 2018 wherein solid as well as liquid waste management cases are to be monitored by NGT on the orders of the Supreme Court of India dated 02.09.2014 in the case of Almitra H. Patel vs. Union of India & Others.

The 4 -Member bench of the National Green Tribunal headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who is the Chairperson of NGT, has sought the details of remedial measures taken to address the menace of dumping of solid waste by Municipal Council Poonch near the Poonch river. J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC) has been designated as the Nodal Agency for coordination and compliance of NGT orders. The matter was listed before NGT on April 13th this month and the corrected order in this case was issued on Wednesday.

Notice to DC , PCC

The National Green Tribunal’s order order dated April 13th reads:

“Grievance in this application is against unscientific dumping of solid waste and bio-medical waste in the area falling between Sher-e-Kashmir Bridge (NG 144A) and the confluence of Poonch River and Belar Nala, near Poonch Town, Jammu & Kashmir. Such dumping of waste has a harmful impact on river Poonch which is a source of drinking water in the area. The Authorities have failed to take remedial action in spite of representations. Let the J&K PCC and District Magistrate, Poonch furnish a joint report in the matter after verifying facts and take remedial action within two months. The J&K PCC will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance. The report may mention the steps taken to prevent such dumping and management of solid waste and bio-medical waste in the area. The Committee may look into the order of this Tribunal dated 20.10.2022 in O.A. No. 606/2018 and give compliance status with reference thereto in respect of the area in question.”

The Tribunal has given two months time to the District Magistrate Poonch and the J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC) to file their response. The matter will be again listed for hearing on July 12th 2023.

No sanitary landfill site in Poonch

Due to lack of proper landfill sites in Jammu & Kashmir, the solid waste gets dumped in the open, causing harm to environment and human health. There is hardly any scientific landfill site in J&K. The one in Srinagar’s Achan area is also choked and has no space to accommodate more waste. Since the Poonch town has no sanitary landfill site, as required under the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, the solid waste is not disposed off in a scientific manner and is dumped directly into the open near the banks of Poonch river. This is leading to contamination of soil and water. The District Administration Poonch along with Municipal Council, Poonch have failed in its responsibility of operation and maintenance of sanitary landfill as per Schedule I of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. This author visited the site near Poonch river several times where the waste is being dumped in violation of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016. I found huge heaps of waste lying on the banks of this river which happens to be a drinking source for thousands of people in this border district. If the Govt has allocated more than Rs 5000 crores for the drinking water sector in J&K , why can’t a sanitary landfill site be set up in Poonch to treat the municipal solid waste? Why can’t sewage treatment plants be established around Poonch river to treat the liquid waste ? Dumping of waste has not only destroyed the scenery of the area but also created a pungent smell in and around River Poonch. Stray cattle are also found feeding on the waste, which poses a danger of asphyxiation for them. Dumping of waste not only impacts human health and environment but also impacts the health of stray animals.


At a time when the Earth Day is being celebrated across the world today (April 22, 2023) with the theme – Invest in Our Planet, it is the duty of our Govt to ensure safe drinking water is supplied to the citizens. The Govt of India has allocated a huge budget for ensuring supply of hygienic drinking water to people of J&K. It is the duty of Govt to clear all the drinking water sources like rivers and streams from waste which includes Poonch river as well.I was forced to move to NGT as the Govt of J&K failed to address this menace. For the last 7 years I have been requesting the Govt to clear solid waste from Poonch river and not use this place for dumping of waste. I have written at least 5 to 6 articles on this issue alone in the last 6 years. I sent written representations to the Govt but they didn’t even give me the acknowledgement of my letter. I am now hopeful that after NGTs intervention things would change and district administration will start acting and the Govt will allocate funds to set up a sanitary landfill site in Poonch. The local Municipality also needs to enforce solid waste rules 2016 and start collecting waste in a segregated manner from every household. This is my message to the Govt on this International Earth Day.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow.

He is also Anant Fellow for Climate Action.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK. 

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