What steps have been taken to re-examine buffer zone around Dal Lake, HC asks VC JKLCMA

The court said: “In the meanwhile, the Advocate General was asked to take appropriate steps to get the area of the buffer zone around the Dal Lake re-examined by the authorities and place the same on record within six weeks.”
 J&K High Court, Srinagar
J&K High Court, SrinagarMubashir Khan/GK File

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh Thursday directed the Vice Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Lakes Conservation and Management Authority (JKLCMA) to report about the steps taken regarding re-examining the buffer zone around the Dal Lake.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench of Chief Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey and Justice Puneet Gupta said that the court was to be informed about getting the area of the buffer zone around the Dal Lake re-examined by the authorities.

Observing that since 2002 directions were passed from time to time to address the miserable conditions of the various water bodies and lakes for cleaning, development, and upkeep of the lakes, especially of Dal Lake and the construction works within 200 metres of the periphery of the Dal Lake were stopped.

The court said: “In the meanwhile, the Advocate General was asked to take appropriate steps to get the area of the buffer zone around the Dal Lake re-examined by the authorities and place the same on record within six weeks.”

The bench said that after two months nothing had been placed on record before the court despite being directed.

On being asked by the court, the government’s lawyer Ilyas Nazir Laway submitted that the Advocate General had convened a meeting with the officers on the subject. 

To ascertain what had happened during the last two months, the court said it had become necessary to seek a response to be filed by the Vice Chairman JKLCMA on the affidavit by November 16. 

The court on September 8 this year, to balance the needs for sustainable development and economic prosperity of the area, had sought clarifications and guidelines about the provisions of the Srinagar Master Plan 2035 to ensure that these were not abused.

It had proposed the development of buffer zones of non-concrete nature in Dal Lake while allowing buffer zones for other water bodies as mentioned in the Master Plan itself.

The court said that the development in the buffer zones of the concerned water body except the Dal area might be allowed under the Master Plan 2035, subject to the condition, that no fresh construction of a permanent nature (apart from repair, renovation, or reconstruction of existing plinths as on July 19, 2002) should be allowed in these areas.

“Structures of a temporary nature such as tents, kiosks, floating jettys, or other such structures that can be erected without harming the surrounding areas may be allowed for utilisation of such lands,” the court had said. “This would only be apposite, keeping in mind that 20 years have elapsed since the restrictions were imposed.”

In the past 20 years, the court had said that much advancement had been made in terms of materials available and in terms of techniques to establish eco-friendly structures that might enhance the development of the area rather than cause harm to it.

“We may notice at this juncture that the Government of India, Ministry of Tourism (H&R) Division has issued ‘Guidelines for Project Approval and Classification of Tended Accommodation’. Various forest areas like Ranthambore, Kanha National Park, and the like, today provide tented accommodations and wooden log structures of a temporary nature for lodging and resort purposes,” the court said. “Such measures have not only brought a sustainable balance between livelihood tourism and ecological preservation to such areas but also increased the prosperity of the inhabitants. The Master Plan 2035, we feel has failed to take advantage of these advancements.”

The court said that on the other hand, the Master Plan 2035 envisages the use of buffer zones for amusement parks, aquariums, and swimming pools.

“It will not require the construction of a permanent nature that can have a drastic impact on the beauty of the waterfront and the lake's surroundings,” the court had said. “Utilisation of the buffer zones for swimming pools, amusement parks, theme parks, and the like would also envisage high footfalls and the consequent impact on the area in terms of waste disposal, littering, and pollution.”

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