Reiterates Its Ban On Constructions Near These Places
The High Court on Friday directed the government to carry out demarcation of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and wetland reserves in Jammu and Kashmir.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation titled Environmental Policy Group (EPG) versus Union of India and Others, a division bench of Chief Justice and Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey asked commissioner secretary forest department to ensure, as nodal authority, that the demarcation is carried out by all the agencies.
The court also ordered that the demarcation be carried out though latest GIS (Geographical Information System) so that it is clear as to what is supposed to be the area covered by each of these parks, sanctuaries and reserves and what exists in reality.
The court also reiterated its earlier direction that there should be a complete ban on constructions and no further construction should be carried out in any of these areas.
It also directed commissioner secretary PHE, irrigation and flood control to come up with a comprehensive plan about restoration of inter-linkage between rivers lakes and wetlands.
The directions came after environmental lawyer Nadeem Qadri on behalf of the EPG submitted that nine wetlands in Kashmir were notified in 1945 but their demarcation has not been carried out so far.
Advocate Qadri pleaded that there are only nine wetlands, which are managed by department of wildlife protection, but as many as 1200 water bodies are not being managed by any authority.
“Some authority be constituted on the pattern of Central Wetland Conservation Authority,” he told court.
In response to submission by Qadri that deforestation and overgrazing of the catchment areas of Jehlum is the primary reason behind massive erosions and deposition of the silt on river Jehlum basin, the court observed: “Deposition of silt on river Jehlum basin has decreased its water carrying capacity and has probably increased chances of its floods”.
The court directed principal chief conservator of forests to inform it about the magnitude of deforestation that has taken place in the catchment area of river Jehlum as also the requirement of its aforestation.
Advocate Qadri also raised the issue that most of the grazing happens in protected areas and not in forest areas.
“An area of 52 square kilometers of upper Dachigam is being exploited by grazing. This is manmade disaster to denude the whole Kashmir”.
“ Wular has lost 40 percent of volumetric capacity and 50 percent of other wetlands have been encroached on,” he told the court.
Wetlands in Kashmir are vanishing apace as construction works are doing the most damage to these.
“Bemina rakh where the court complex has been constructed now was a wetland. Sangam wetland in southern Kashmir was destroyed in national highway road widening and railway track building. Mansbal once the deepest water body has been destroyed by concrete structures and oozing of water has been affected,” Qadri said.
The court asked the government to file objections to the petition wherein it has been alleged that in the middle of Rambiara Nallah, the horticulture department is planning to set up a fruit market.
Counsel for EPG also drew attention of the court towards the “selective and deep dredging” of Jehlum, saying it will destablise banks of the river.
The Court was told that Kolkata based company REACH, which has been entrusted with the dredging, has been doing deep dredging which can destabilize the river embankment as well as cause a threat to the structural stability of building along the River Bund.
“In the interim report of technical team of the Union water resource ministry, the GoI advised the Kashmir irrigation and flood control department to stop this work at once. Extraction of Sand from the Jhelum, which is disturbing the hydrological regime of the river, as the department does not have any dediment data available and only 17% of dredging work has been executed during the contract time,” the counsel told the court.