Save Anchar & Kushalsar

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Expressing discontentment over the non-submission of a tangible action plan on the networking of streams, lakes, and wetlands with River Jhelum and constitution of a State Wetland Authority, the J&K High Court other day directed the government to file a concrete action plan for preserving the wetland resources of the state. The court rapped the government for its tardy work on the issue when the official lawyer informed it that he has received “compliance on the issue from the concerned agency but it does not contain a solid action plan as directed by the court.” Maintaining that the “half-hearted compliance is an issue of serious nature”, the court directed the state to file a concrete action plan on next date of hearing of the matter. The court also directed the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir to ensure that no solid waste is thrown into the river and proper steps are taken to curb this nuisance.

Now it remains to be seen if these latest directions of the high Court will have desired impact on the government and its agencies, which have a history of observing court directions in breach. Given that the Kashmir Valley has already suffered huge and irreparable damage owing to the official neglect of the environmental issues and concerns, it is really unfortunate that the authorities are continually refusing to wake up and put their act together. A State Wetland Authority should already have been in place by now after what has been the plight of state’s wetlands, but even after the intervention of the courts no such mechanism is being evolved. This is in itself a very sad commentary on the kind and extent of official unconcern regarding the issue.

Take the look at what is happening to some really important wetlands in the heart of the Srinagar city – Anchar Lake and Kushalsar – for instance. Both these water-bodies are being filled in right now – usually in the dead of the night. Hundreds of dumper trucks can be seen ferrying material into these wetlands to create vast tracts of solid land masses. Of course all this happens in connivance with the unconcerned authorities of Srinagar Municipality, local Thana police and others – because it is not possible without their active support and patronage!

On both sides of the Dr Ali Jan Road, encroachments are galore. After concealing the areas to be usurped with tin-sheet fencing, the encroachers grease the palms of police and municipal authorities who in turn facilitate hassle-free entry of dumpers carrying mud and soil into these wetlands. In the past couple of years alone, hundreds of kanals of solid land have been created out of the marches adjacent to the main road on both these wetlands; so it should not be difficult to imagine what would be happening in the interiors. While quite a few make-shift automobile workshops have come up at some places at others junk-yards of old cars have been created to pave way for grabbing these wetlands.

Obviously there is a huge nexus between different stakeholders which is responsible for this open loot and plunder in these wetlands. May be High Court could ask its amicus curie to personally visit these sites to see how this sleazy nexus between different government agencies and land-grabbers is depriving the city and the state of a precious resource. Having already lost huge swathes of wetlands to the encroachments, the state is in no position to afford such misadventures anymore. It is time for the courts and divisional authorities to crack whip and put an end to this white-collar robbery once and for all. The greedy and unscrupulous officials must be taken to task. Action must also be initiated against the land mafia which is using varied tricks including bribery to rob this state of its wetland wealth.

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