BETTER LATE THAN NEVER | Govt starts restoration of buried Doodh Ganga canal in Srinagar

Encroachments to be removed from waterway for beautification
A labourer performing the filling work inside Doodh Ganga
A labourer performing the filling work inside Doodh GangaFile Pic

Srinagar, Feb 11: After years of inordinate delay, the government has started restoration of Doodh Ganga canal in Srinagar, which has been extensively encroached.

Originating from Pir Panjal glaciers, Doodh Ganga was one of the tributaries of River Jhelum. Blessed with crystal clear water, the canal passes through several areas and merges into Hokersar Wetland in Srinagar and subsequently reaches Jhelum.

Doodh Ganga is the main source of drinking for major areas of Srinagar.

However, in absence of conservation measures, Doodh Ganga has been extensively polluted and encroached upon during the past several decades.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) on Saturday issued a public notice asking the encroachers to remove illegal structures constructed on the Doodh Ganga canal or nallah from Allochi Bagh to Chattabal.

In the public notice, Commissioner SMC Athar Aamir Khan states that Doodh Ganga waterway from Allochi Bagh to Chattabal is an important channel for the management of stormwater and for preventing urban flooding in the Srinagar City.

“Whereas as, rejuvenation and restoration of Doodh Ganga Nallah from Allochi Bagh to Chatabal has been taken up under Srinagar Smart City Limited with Drainage Circle (Civil), SMC as the executing agency. Whereas it has been found that a number of encroachments and illegal structures have come up on the site of nallah. Whereas removal of these encroachments and illegal structures and restoration of nallah is important for flood and storm water management in the city,” it states. “Now, therefore, through this public notice, all such individuals, encroachers are given seven days’ time from the issuance of this notice to remove all encroachments and illegal structures erected on and along the nallah, failing which Srinagar Municipal Corporation shall initiate action including removal of these encroachments at the risk and cost of the offenders and encroachers.”

Commissioner SMC Athar Amir Khan told Greater Kashmir that the government was committed to make Srinagar a smart city.

“Restoration of Doodh Ganga nallah is one of the important components of Smart City. The channel is important to prevent flooding in adjoining areas including Karan Nagar. We have already made a detailed project report and subsequently started on both sides of the channel. During the course of work, we spotted encroachments on the channel,” said Khan, who is also CEO of Srinagar Smart City Ltd. “If the encroachers don't remove the structures within seven days we will demolish them. The channel will be free from encroachments and we will beautify it.”

Hydraulic engineering expert and environmentalist, Ajaz Rasool welcomed the move.

“It is a welcome order by the government for the revival and restoration of Dood Ganga channel, which had lost its sheen. This will certainly be of immense importance as a flood control measure for Srinagar City. This venture should also ensure that the revived Dood Ganga Channel is no longer allowed to be a receptacle of the solid waste of the area. It equally becomes imperative to improve and eco- restore the other internal navigation routes and channels of Srinagar City for the same consideration,” he said.

Manzoor Wangoo, a social and environmental activist, who is working for the restoration of city water bodies, said, “This step to restore Doodh Ganga is better late than never. It's our collective responsibility to save our water bodies. Coordination between all stakeholders including the authorities will help in conservation of our natural assets."

On October 28 last year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed Rs 35 crore penalty on the Jammu and Kashmir administration for failing to check pollution of Doodh Ganga owing to discharge of untreated sewage into the water body.

Social activist and petitioner before the NGT in the Doodh Ganga case, Raja Muzaffar Bhat welcomed the move.

“There should be restoration from Allochi Bagh to Chattabal. SMC must also restore its glory from Bagh-e-Mehtab to Tengpora via Barzulla. I had to go to the NGT to ensure its restoration and the government imposed a Rs 35 crore penalty as well. The liquid waste continues to make Doodh Ganga dirty at Chanapora Bypass, Natipora, Barzulla and Bulbul Bagh. The government has given assurance to NGT to set up some sewerage treatment plants (STPs) on Doodh Ganga from Barzulla to Chadoora and the work must be executed by the UEED soon,” he said.

Bhat said that the authorities had constructed many shops on the Old Doodh Ganga Road in the past.

“Shopkeepers give rent for it. They need to be rehabilitated in case their shops are dismantled,” Bhat said.

The High Court of J&K and Ladakh in its last hearing had directed the government to prevent pollution and environmental degradation of Doodh Ganga and construct a filtration plant over it.

The court had closed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which it had initiated in 2019 after taking cognisance of a news report in Greater Kashmir.

The report had highlighted the deteriorating condition of Doodh Ganga stream and the filtration plant over it.

It had also disclosed that heaps of garbage were lying around Doodh Ganga Filtration Plant built in the year 1972, which supplies water to more than 2 lakh people in different areas of Srinagar.

After treating the report as PIL, the court issued notice to the J&K Pollution Control Board, Department of Public Health Engineering, and SMC for response. Subsequently, several directions were passed on the PIL to ensure that the pollution in and around the Doodh Ganga stream and filtration plant was eradicated.

The court had closed the PIL as the NGT was monitoring the case.

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