On January 29th this year the National Green Tribunal (NGT) admitted my case regarding using of meadows and green forests for Filed Firing and Artillery practices. NGT's five member bench headed lead by its Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to Ministry of Defence and Jammu & Kashmir Government and sought their response by March 1st. When the case was listed for hearing on March 1st 2016, the respondents ie Ministry of Defence , J&K Government sought more time to file their replies. Time was again granted by the Tribunal and now the matter is listed for the next hearing on April 7th 2016. If media sources are to be believed, authorities are now planning to shift the proposed firing range to Tragbal area of Bandipora which is also a green meadow surrounded by thick forests.
Background of my petition:
As the Government decided not to further extend the Tosamaidan filed firing range lease agreement , authorities were planning to provide an alternate place to Army for undertaking Artillery and other field firing practices. According to media reports a forest area called Bajpathri located near tourist destination of Yusmarg in Budgam district was selected for the proposed military activity. There was lot of resentment from locals , civil society, political parties and people involved with tour and travel. In January this year I myself decided to file a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in New Delhi. The petition was luckily admitted on January 29th 2016 and a pressure started building up on the Government and Army. My petition was based on facts that green meadows, forest areas cannot be used for different military drills because these activities are directly violating not only Forest and Environment Protection laws, but it violates Wildlife Protection Act as well.
Prayer before NGT :
My petition before National Green Tribunal (NGT) is not just limited to Tosamaidan or Bajpathri, but I have prayed that green meadows , forest areas across J&K should not be used for undertaking Filed Firing and Artillery Practices. Even I have requested the Tribunal that green meadows and forests located in other states of India should also not be used for undertaking any military drills. If such drills are being undertaken there , the same should be stopped. My prayer before NGT reads as :
1. Kindly seek a report from Secretary Ministry of Defence , Chief of the Army Staff and Chief Secretary of Jammu & Kashmir Govt on the issue of Bajpathree Yusmarg (Jammu & Kashmir) planned to be used as a field firing range.
2. The authorities should be asked to undertake these drills in barren lands available in Ladakh region of J&K.
3. The green meadows , dense forests should be exempted from being used as Filed Firing Ranges by Army and other security agencies. This should not be limited to J&K state only, if such drills are undertaken in other states also, the same should be immediately stopped.
I would appeal people of Bandipora to become interveners in my case pending before National Green Tribunal (NGT). I have already pleaded before the tribunal that green meadows or forests should not at all be used for Artillery and other firing practices by Army. My petition is not only restricted to Kashmir, but I have tried my level best to ensure protection to all the meadows / forests located in other states as well. It is quite clear that my petition covers the issue of Tragbal meadow as well. I am sure that new Government lead by Mehbooba Mufti ji must keep these issues into consideration and should take a clear stand by not allowing any military exercise to be conducted in ecologically fragile zones of Jammu & Kashmir. Tragbal is ecologically / environmentally very fragile zone which connects Gurez valley with Kashmir. Our meadows and forests have already suffered a lot during last several decades, we should not allow their further destruction now. Let us join hands to conserve our forests, meadows, lakes, glaciers and water bodies.