Government of India recently constituted a State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority Jammu & Kashmir and formulated State Level Expert Appraisal Committee to assist the Authority. Environmental Impact Assessment is defined as an activity designed to identify the impact on the bio geophysical environment, on man and well-being of legislative proposals, projects, policies, operational procedures and to interpret and communicate information. EIA is a systematic process of identifying future consequences of a current or proposed action. Many states have these authorities and it is probably for the first time such a welcome initiative has been taken in J & K? The objective of the authority is to promote environmentally sound and sustainable development. In J&K there has hardly been any prior assessment of various developmental projects especially in regard to environment. Most of the projects are virtually started on ad hoc basis without determining the long term impact of these projects on the environment. This authority is globally accepted as a tool to ensure sustained development with minimum environmental degradation. In Kashmir always the reverse has happened. Many a project have been ostensibly started for giving boost to economic development but these have often resulted in the worst form of environmental degradation. Examples are setting up of cement factories, some electric power projects such as high voltage transmission lines through dense forests involving cutting of trees and so on.
Most annoying are government constructions in the declared flood basin of the River Jhelum. Most of these buildings housing developmental offices and even a hospital were flooded during the disastrous flood of 2014. It would be very useful if all future projects are first examined and cleared by the Authority before these are taken up. It would also be a great environmental drive if some of the existing projects are also assessed in regard to the impact caused by these to the environment. No doubt the creation and commissioning of this Authority will give a big boost to the environment protection drive but in order to be effective, the Authority should have some over-riding statutory powers. It is hoped that this aspect has been taken care off? There are already a number of laws and regulations for protection of environment but these have remained on the statute book only because of the absence of any effective enforcing agency. One would have to wait to see how far the Authority is effective in protecting environment. Nevertheless, the step taken is appreciable and timely.