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HC raps J&K administration for failing to file status report on wetlands

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Srinagar: Expressing its intent of penal action against the administration for failing to file a status report on the wetlands, the High Court on Monday granted it the last opportunity to file the report by December.  

The order was passed in a PIL on the preservation of wetlands in the union territory, going on since 2017.

“In spite of the order passed by this court on 09.09.2022, the Union Territory of J&K has not yet filed a status report, while the Union Territory of Ladakh has filed the same. Considering the importance attached to the issue and the desire of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to have the matter monitored by this court, we are of the view that failure to file a status report by the Union Territory of J&K is a serious lapse,” observed a two judge bench comprising Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice M A Chowdhary.

The bench went on to say “however, we grant a final opportunity to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to file the status report without fail. Failure to do so will result in appropriate penal action against those responsible for not filing the status report.”

The court appreciated that an affidavit containing the status report has been filed by the Union Territory of Ladakh and asked the state counsel to furnish the copy to Nadeem Qadiri, amicus curiae in the matter. 

The amicus curiae brought to the notice of the bench that Anchar Lake is in dire situation and sought immediate intervention from the court for its protection. He was asked by the judges to submit relevant documentation in that regard. 

The bench directed the Union Territory to indicate in its final status report on the wetlands, the current condition of the Anchar Lake as well.

Considering the fact that the wetlands in India were being fast converted into wastelands, the Supreme Court had some years ago asked the Chief Justices of the concerned high courts to ensure that the Ramsar Convention sites within their jurisdiction were properly maintained.

The High Court of J&K and Ladakh pursuant to the directions registered the matter as PIL on its own motion. It appointed lawyer Nadeem Qadri as amicus curiae to assist the court.

Qadri later informed the court that in Jammu and Kashmir, as per the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing, 1230 wetlands had been identified as covered under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017. These also included the wetlands covered under the international Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

While the court had directed for preservation and maintenance of wetlands covered under Ramsar Convention, it had also directed for conservation of other 1230 wetlands in the erstwhile state of J&K.

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