HC seeks ATR on Wular Lake’s conservation

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajesh Sekhri observed that sufficient funds were being provided by the Centre for the conservation and preservation of the lake.
Wular is the largest freshwater lake in Kashmir and a flood basin that has witnessed massive encroachment during the last few decades.
Wular is the largest freshwater lake in Kashmir and a flood basin that has witnessed massive encroachment during the last few decades.File/ GK

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh Monday granted the government two weeks to file the Action Taken Report (ATR) regarding the conservation and preservation of Wular, one of the largest freshwater lakes in South Asia.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajesh Sekhri observed that sufficient funds were being provided by the Centre for the conservation and preservation of the lake.

As the PIL came up for the hearing, Advocate General (AG) D C Raina on behalf of the J&K government submitted that following the direction of the court, he was coordinating and supervising the development and cleaning work of the Wular Lake.

In response to the submission by the AG that a report was being prepared by him but he still had to improve upon it for which he required some more time, the court said, “D C Raina, the learned AG, is granted two weeks further time for filing the ATR.”

Advocate Nadeem Qadri, who assists the court as amicus curiae in the PIL, submitted that he visited the site and found that the work of preservation and cleaning of Wular Lake was going on.

However, he said that the dredging activity which was being undertaken was going at a very slow pace.

The court asked Qadri to bring on record his inspection report along with suggestions that he proposes to make for the development of Wular Lake.

On May 22 this year, the court observed that Rs 200 crore more had been provided by the Center for conservation and management of the lake.

The report on record mentions that under the Wular Action Plan about Rs 125 crore had already been spent.

Following this, the court directed Senior Additional Advocate General to indicate the strength of the staff of the Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA), the number of persons employed and the effective steps taken by the authority for the conservation and preservation of the lake.

On November 8, 2021, Additional Chief Executive Director, WUCMA filed an ATR.

Following its perusal, the court observed that it simply stated that the authority was making sincere efforts for the conservation and preservation of the lake.

The court had noted, “It has a staff strength of 43 employees only which are all drawn on deputation and that there is no separate sanctioned staff in the authority.”

Subsequently, the court observed that the Chief Executive Director owed an explanation as to what action he had taken to get the staff for the authority sanctioned and for its appointment, as also how the amount of Rs 125 crore provided by the Union of India had been spent with complete details of the heads under which the expenses were incurred.

He was also directed to report about the steps taken for retrieving the balance of land of the Wular Lake which had been encroached upon.

“We are pained to notice that the government has created the WUCMA for a specific purpose but the authority is not able to come up to the mark, rather, it appears to have been wasting the money sanctioned and provided by the Centre,” the court had said.

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