After years of delay, the Jammu and Kashmir government has finally put the draft of its maiden Environment Policy, aimed at conserving state's fragile environment, in public domain, asking for suggestions from the people.
The SEP recommends measures to protect and conserve critical ecological systems and improving the quality of life through sustainable management and use of natural resources.
Being an eco-fragile zone, J&K is confronted with environmental challenges due to global warming, unplanned urbanisation, deforestation and encroachment of water bodies. "We have put the policy in public domain today for receiving suggestions. The policy is aimed at providing framework for guiding state's efforts to deal with its environmental issues," commissioner secretary forest, ecology and environment SaurabhBhagat told Greater Kashmir.
Bhagat said due to unplanned development, many fragile areas in the state have lost carrying capacity. "There is dire need for an environment policy in Jammu and Kashmir due to its vulnerability to natural disasters and increased pressure on natural resources due to haphazard development," he added.
He said the policy has more provisions than the National Environment Policy.
"I hope the stakeholders will give their valuable suggestions so that we are able to incorporate it in the policy for long term planning," Bhagat added.
The policy has enumerated challenges to state's environment, including loss and degradation of forests and biodiversity, loss of wetlands, deterioration of rivers, alarming rate of air, water and soil contamination, conversion of paddy land for other uses, menace of solid waste, climate changes and industrial pollution.
To minimise adverse effects on environment by adopting sustainable development, the state government in 2011 decided to formulate the SEP. A technical committee headed by chairman State Pollution Control Board reviewed the draft. Subsequently, the technical committee constituted a sub-committee for its comments on the policy draft.
"The formulation of the policy was delayed due to various reasons. Major records related to the policy were destroyed in devastating floods in 2014. Law and order problem in 2016 also hampered the process. Despite several problems, we have managed to complete the draft," said OP Sharma, director ecology, environment and remote sensing department.
The policy envisages right to development, ecosystem approach, sustainable use of environmental resources and public participation.
"It is collective responsibility of people as well as government to work for environmental conservation. The policy aims at participatory approach to environmental protection and management to ensure that the relevant government agencies, private sector, civil society and communities are involved in planning, implementation and decision making processes," Sharma said.
The draft policy has been uploaded on jkdears.com and will be in public domain for comments, suggestions for four weeks.
Majid Farooq, scientist coordinator Environment Information System (ENVIS), said in contrast to the National Environment Policy 2006, the SEP provides an all-encompassing framework for addressing the environmental issues confronting J&K, particularly pollution of water bodies, deforestation and climate change.
He said the policy will give direction for addressing the cross-sectoral issues, underlying causes of environmental degradation to meet national and international obligations without hampering the present and future development imperatives.