Rashid Paul

Encroachment at Verinag: HC issues notices to Union, State governments

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Srinagar July 08: The J&K High Court on Monday issued a notice to Union of India and state government in a public interest litigation (PIL) showing concern about the encroachments and pollution facing Verinag spring, the main source of river Jhelum.

Earlier a two judge bench directed registration of a communication dated 12th June 2019 to court by Greater Verinag Civil Society (a non government organization -NGO) as a PIL. The communication expressed its deep concern about the encroachment at Verinag, the central source of Jhelum River.

The communication said that all the wastes generated around the spring in Verinag township and its succeeding human settlements along the river are being dumped in the water area. It said inadequate drainage system in the vicinity of the river system threatens the very existence of this most important waterway of Kashmir.

Verinag spring being an archaeological and tourist site of substantial significance, the bench issued notices to Union of India through Director General, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI, Ministry of Culture Union of India and state of J&K through director, Archives, Archaeological & Museums, J&K Government.

The court also directed impleading Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Secretary Tourism Department J&K and chief executive officer Verinag Development Authority as party respondents in the matter.

All the respondents have been directed to file compliance reports within four weeks.

A major tourist attraction of South Kashmir, Verinag Spring has an octagonal stone basin and an arcade surrounding it which were built by Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1620 A.D. The spring has a beautiful garden laid out next to it. The spring is considered the chief source of river Jhelum, the lifeline of Kashmir.

Civil Society members from Shahabad Verinag recently staged a protest against the alleged failure of authorities to stop encroachments near Verinag. The originating spot of River Jehlum was 180 feet wide but it has shrunk to 30 feet only due to unabated encroachments, they alleged.

“The irony is that even lavatories have been set near the source of the Jhelum while the concerned departments particularly Verinag Development Authority and Municipal Committee Dooru Verinag are in slumber and act like ostrich,” said the protestors.

They urged the judiciary to intervene in the matter and save the river including its source, considered to be the most important basis of Kashmir’s socioeconomic life.

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