J&K fails to submit status report on 3 wetlands before NGT

Jammu and Kashmir government failed to file status report in a petition relating to state’s three wetlands including Hokersar, Wular and Kreentchoo-Chandhara, before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi on Monday.

The case relating to encroachment and dumping of waste in the three wetlands of Kashmir, was listed at serial number 16. However, it was adjourned to September 3, after state authorities failed to submit their report before it.

In April this year, the NGT had ordered Jammu and Kashmir State Pollution Control Board, Department of Wildlife Protection, Deputy Commissioners of Budgam, Srinagar and Bandipora to constitute a “committee (that) may also look into the issue of encroachment of the water bodies in addition to dumping of waste.”

The petition was filed by RTI activist Raja Muzaffar Bhat.

Environmental lawyer, Sharon Mathew dealing with the case, while talking to Greater Kashmir over phone from New Delhi said: “It has been pushed another two more months to September. What’s happening is that the rate at which wetlands are decomposing or deteriorating is very rapid”.

Researcher and environmentalist Prof. Shakeel Ahmad Romshoo, while expressing his dismay over the failure of state to present its report, said: “Here the government treats wetlands as wastelands.

Whenever there is a requirement for infrastructure or developmental projects, so the first causality is the wetlands. They start filling it up and ultimately erect the infrastructure”.

Romshoo added as far as question of action plan for wetlands is concerned, “we have 3650 wetlands and water bodies in the state. And we have four Ramsar sites. We don’t have action plan for any of these wetlands and water bodies. The priority should have been to restore them. We should have prepared the action plan for all of these wetlands and water bodies”.

Romshoo said that the government should have learnt lessons by the 2014 devastating floods.

“One of the main reasons of flooding of Srinagar in 2014 was because of the shrinking and loss of carrying capacity of these wetlands…These wetlands used to act as sponge during floods and they used to save built up areas, towns from flooding. It seems authorities haven’t learnt a lesson from 2014 deluge. We continue to disregard these wetlands,” said Romshoo.

RTI activist, Bhat said despite passing of three and a half months authorities’ failure to submit their report reflect their “non seriousness”.

Meanwhile, Chief Wildlife Warden Kashmir region, Rashid Naqash said: “We have already submitted compliance report to the NGT on 17 th  of this month. Let me check why this report hasn’t reached over there.”

An official from PCB also claimed that report has been submitted before the NGT.