Srinagar: At a time when the Dal Lake has shrunk to about 10 square kilometers from its original area of 22 square kilometers owing to unchecked encroachment over the years, Jammu and Kashmir government has given a clean chit to any kind of intrusion on the water body.
According to the minutes of the meeting for effective implementation of directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) chaired by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir P K Pole, out of 10 water bodies in Kashmir, there has been “no encroachment” on four water bodies in the valley.
The review meeting was held in the wake of an application submitted by environmentalist Raja Muzaffar Bhat before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on pollution and encroachment in water bodies in Kashmir.
The four water bodies that have been given clean chit in encroachment include Dal lake, Hokersar, Meergund, and Shalabugh.
Vice-chairman of Lakes and Water Development Authority (LAWDA) has informed that there is no encroachment on the water body.
“As such there is no encroachment on the water body, however, drives are being conducting within the outer/inner peripheries of the lake to thwart any attempt of encroachment,” the minutes of the meeting reads.
The government on Wednesday renamed LAWDA as Jammu and Kashmir Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA).
However, contrary to the report of the LCMA, according to an assessment by the Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) in 2017, pollution and encroachment have resulted in the Dal Lake shrinking from its original area of 22 square kilometers to about 10 square kilometers,
The DCI assessment also found that intense pollution by untreated sewage and solid wastes that flow into the lake, encroachments of water channels and clogging has diminished the circulation and inflows into the lake, leading to extensive growth of the weed water hyacinth which has emerged as a health hazard.
In June 1986, then the state government first put a moratorium on construction within the lake. In 2002, the high court observed that the ban should apply to any kind of construction within 200 metres from the Dal lake periphery.
However, encroachment on the water body has continued unabated.
On Hokersar wetland, the deputy commissioner (DC) Srinagar and Budgam have also submitted their report mentioning “no encroachment” on the water body.
“It was informed that there is no encroachment on the water body, however, there are some proprietary land patches within the parameters of the water body,” the report said.
Similarly, additional deputy commissioner Budgam and DC Srinagar and Ganderbal have also mentioned “no encroachment” on Meergund and Shalabugh water bodies.
The DC Ganderbal in the report said that the final demarcation of the water body (Shalabugh) has not been completed yet, however, there is no encroachment at 90 percent of the wetland.
“The extent of encroachment on 10 percent is plantation and vegetables,” it said.
Talking with The Kashmir Walla, environmentalist Raja Muzzaffar Bhat said that the clean chit given to the encroached water bodies is a “crude joke”.
“Anybody who can see will tell you that the interior of the Dal lake has been vastly encroached over the years. Many hotels, shops and residential houses have been built inside the Dal lake unabated,” Bhat said.
“The government report is akin to saying that day is a night ,” he said.
Bhat said there are enough funds available under the Swach Bharat Mission Grameen which can be utilized to safeguard the wetlands in the rural areas.
“I am preparing to file a counter argument to the government’s clean chit report on the encroachment of the water bodies,” he said.
The National Green Tribunal has many times passed directions for the restoration of water bodies.
The government had come up with an Integrated Management Action Plan (IMAP) for conservation of wetlands in Kashmir with a proposed budgetary outlay of Rs 46.70 crore.
“An overall budget of Rs 46.70 crore is proposed for implementation of the Integrated Management Action Plan for the entire Wetland Conservation Reserves of Kashmir region over a period of 5 years (2022-27),” it said.
Meanwhile, the divisional administration has set a deadline for removal of encroachments from water bodies of Wular lake, Haigam, Chatlam in Kashmir division by November 30.