Rashid Paul

HC issues slew of directions for preservation of dying Dal Lake

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Calls for declaring Lake as eco-sensitive zone, construction of western peripheral road

Srinagar, Dec 05: Feeling the intense existential angst of Dal Lake, the J&K High Court Saturday directed the Union Territory administration “to take urgent steps to construct a western peripheral road on the lake in order to prevent its encroachment”.

The court ordered a string of directions including the one on declaring this extinguishing urban lake of Kashmir an eco-sensitive zone.

The court directed the Secretaries in the departments of Housing & Urban Development and also the Forests, Ecology and Environment to take urgent steps for preparation and approval of the proposal on declaring Dal Lake and its surrounding areas as eco-sensitive zone.

“The same should be forwarded to the concerned competent authority of the Government of India within a reasonable timeframe of two months if not already done,” it directed.

A report in this regard has to be placed before the court constituted committee of experts and this court before the next date of hearing failing which the Secretaries in these two departments shall remain personally present in the court on the next date of hearing, it said.

The court directed the respondent authorities to comply with its orders regarding stoppage of vegetable cultivation in the Dal Lake.

“For the last two-and-half years, we have passed a series of orders with regard to the stoppage of vegetable cultivation within the lakes which is leading to release of remnants of fertilizers and pesticides into the water that induce copious weed growth,” it said.

It noted that the method of relocation and rehabilitation of families within and around the Dal Lake has not progressed because of the non-commitment of the government departments.

It directed Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary, Revenue Department, and Dheeraj Gupta, Commissioner/Secretary, Housing & Urban Development Department to examine the issue.

“The duo shall come up with a proper action plan with regard to the various measures which are to be taken and place the same before this court before the next date of hearing,” directed the court.

On managing the sewage from houseboats into the Lake, the court directed fitting of hull based bio-digesters in more of the vessels and their monitoring by Lakes and Water-waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) and Pollution Control Board (PCB).

The court expressed its disapproval of the failure of the Department of Tourism for not taking steps to register houseboats, Shikaras and all other vessels ferrying in the Dal Lake.

It called for a detailed observation and monitoring contract between LAWDA and the agency installing Sewerage Treatment Plants around Dal Lake for daily effluent quality test.

“Any abnormalities should set alarm bells ringing and the daily test results should be placed on LAWDA and government website for information of all stakeholders”.

It also asked for setting up of display monitors outside each STP where the daily test result should be scrolled.

“Let the aspect of the matter relating to flow of sewage into the Dal Lake be brought to the notice of the Chief Secretary of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir forthwith,” directed the court.

It also directed for obtaining weed harvesting machine for the southern half of the Dal Lake.

The court asked the Vice-Chairman LAWDA to take urgent steps for introduction of proper variety of fish culture in the Lake.

“LAWDA shall also ensure that the result of Drone Survey and GIS data prepared by it is properly maintained. The same may be put in the public domain,” it directed.

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