The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has notified the formation of the Jammu & Kashmir Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC) under the section 4 clause 4 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and Section 6 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981. What is amazing is that out of the 14 members, none are from the Kashmir Valley. The undemocratic way of constituting this committee is being roundly criticized by NGOs and civil society groups in the Kashmir valley as not even a single Government or Non -Governmental member in this group is from the Valley. Through a gazette notification dated 25th March 2021, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) constituted a 14 member committee in J&K which includes a Chairperson and Member Secretary.
Background of PCC
Under Section 4 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 6 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is empowered to perform the functions of the State Pollution Control Board for all Union Territories. However, Section 4(4) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 6 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 provides that CPCB may delegate all or any of its powers and functions of a State Board in a UT under the said Acts to such person or body of persons as the Central Government may specify. The CPCB has thus delegated all its powers and functions as a State Board in respect of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir to a committee of 14 officials who include various administrative secretaries of J&K Govt, officials of health & medical education and municipal corporation and even NGO's. Ironically all the 14 members are non-Kashmiris. If Commissioner Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) or Medical Superintendent Govt Medical College Jammu can be part of the team why not include Commissioner GMC Srinagar or top medicos from GMC Srinagar or SKIMS?
Members of PCC
The J&K Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC) members include Administrative Secretaries of Industries, Housing & Urban Development, Health & Medical Education & Transport Departments. The Additional Secretary of Forest and Environment is also a member of this committee. There is a post of a Chairman who will most probably be the Administrative Secretary Forest, Ecology and Environment. Pertinently in the UT of Delhi Sanjeev Khirwar the Principal Secretary of Environment & Forests is the Chairman of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Other members of J&K PCC include Commissioner JMC , Medical Superintendent GMC Jammu, Regional Officer Ministry of Environment ,Forests & Climate change Govt of India Jammu, Dr Pankaj Chandan Director Nature , Wildlife and Climate Change an NGO based in Jammu, Prof Anil Raina Department of Environmental Science Jammu University, Member Secretary Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) or his / her nominee, MD Small Industrial Corporation, Member Secretary J&K Pollution Control Committee. As a Kashmiri I have no issues with the administrative memebers as these officials represent the Govt of J&K, but I have reservations when Commissioner Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC), Medical Superintendent Govt Medical College Jammu or a Professor from Jammu University are made part of the group and their counterparts in Kashmir are not included at all ?
Closing down SPBC
With the constitution of the J&K Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC) it seems that granting statehood to J&K is being delayed now as many state institutions of J&K set up in the past are being shut down one by one. Some of these institutions were shut down soon after the abrogation of article 370 like State Information Commission (SIC), State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), State Women's Commission (SWC), and now institution like State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) has been closed down which is to be replaced by J&K Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC). The JKPCC will now directly be controlled by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) New Delhi. It seems that Govt of India has no plans for restoration of statehood to Jammu & Kashmir in near future. J&K State Pollution Control Board (JKSPCB) has not done any favours to us in the past. I have been criticized for its style of working for a long time as PCB never took solid waste or plastic waste management issues seriously. Water supplied from several water sources like Doodh Ganga is not even tested by PCB. I got to know all this through an RTI reply from the SPCB. Now as the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) is being replaced by the Pollution Control Committee, it hurts me a lot. One more institution of erstwhile State of J&K is being shut down. I feel more pained the way the JK Pollution Control Committee has been constituted. Authorities at helm need to look into it and reconstitute JK Pollution Control Committee.
Bypassing valley based institutions
There are several Govt and non-Government institutions in Kashmir which should have been part of the newly constituted J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC). By bypassing Govt institutions like Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED) Kashmir, Wullar Conservation & Management Authority (WUCMA), Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing Department, Kashmir University, Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LWDA), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has done a great disservice not only to the people of Kashmir but to Kashmir's fragile environment as well. I personally believe that Kashmir based NGOs like Nigeen Lake Conservation Organization (NLCO), Environmental Policy Group (EPG), Peoples Environment Council (PEC) should have been taken on board by the Government as they have been playing a great role for conservation of environment and ecology in Kashmir. When this author spoke to Faiz Bakshi Convener Srinagar based EPG said that the newly constituted JK Pollution Control Committee does not represent the entire Jammu & Kashmir. " Govt must call it Jammu Pollution Control Committee" he said
J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC) will directly be controlled by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). We have apprehensions that PCC on the orders of CPCB will give NoC for setting up big industrial units that will be set up in the valley in the years to come. If that is the plan it will only cause disaster in J&K. I am unable to understand how the Chairman of J&K State Pollution Control Board ( SPCB) who is a senior IFS officer gave his consent for constitution of a 14 member Pollution Control Committee (PCC)? I tried to contact him , but he didn't respond; how could he answer – sometimes silence speaks more than words
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Anant Fellow for Climate Action. He is also Chairman J&K RTI Movement.