To protect water bodies, along with river Jhelum, High Court (HC) Friday directed government to demarcate the wetlands and take measures to conserve water bodies in the Valley.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), HC headed by Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Ali Mohammad Magrey ordered immediate demarcation of wildlife forests, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation reserves by the concerned authority.
Commissioner Secretary Forest was asked to act as nodal authority to ensure that demarcation be carried out with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.
Environment lawyer, Nadeem Qadri informed the court about the present situations of wetlands in the valley.
“Over 90 percent of the wetlands are facing problems because inputs and outputs are being blocked. These wetlands are not wastelands. Wetlands are being occupied by people for construction purposes. Government buildings are too constructed on wetlands,” he said.
He said 40 percent of Wular Lake is destroyed and 50 percent of wetlands are gone.
“Mirgund is 70 percent gone. Manasbal Lake, which is deepest lake in the Kashmir wetland ecosystem, has suffered huge loss and has stopped oozing of fresh water. The government has done damage in the name of development. Malgam, another wetland and a flood absorbing basin has faced huge damages also. As the wetlands has no interconnectivity with the River Jhelum, we see 2014 flood-like situation.”
To build interconnections between wetlands and rivers, the court ordered Commissioner Secretary Irrigation Department to convene a meeting and submit action plan on next hearing on September 11. Concerned Principal Development Authority was also asked to file fresh response about the details of map and network of wetlands interconnected with River Jhelum.
Talking about the dredging of River Jhelum, Qadri said, “Dredging is being carried out without the segmentation data. Ministry has no segmentation data and that is important for carrying out dredging. Dredgers suck the silt and can cause the collapsing of the bunds.”
He further added: “By deforestation, the silt falls into the water bodies and narrows their carrying capacity.” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Department was directed to report on deforestation and asked to take immediate steps afforestation.
Qadri said that most of the grazing takes places in protective areas.
“Upper part of Dachigam is under active grazing. Floods in 2014 was man-made disaster based on the reasons,” he said.
Regarding a water body in the south Kashmir Rambi Ara, the court was told that the government has issued tenders for the construction of a fruit mandi.
The concerned DC has also granted permission for the construction.
Qadri said the construction of the mandi would choke the canals and lead to flood-like situation to which the court directed the State counsel to file counter affidavit at the next hearing.
The court ordered that no fresh construction should be carried out which are banned under law.
The PIL filed by one Peer Noor-ul-Haq, seeking directions to remove encroachments to restore Padshahi canal, an age-old irrigation passage which lies at Nallah Sindh near Wayil Bridge in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir.
Later, High Court expanded the purview of the PIL and issued directions for safeguarding the Jhelum, the lifeline of Kashmir Valley.