Restoration of world famous Gharana wetland’s original area
Time-frame yet to be fixed for work on Development Plan
JAMMU, Aug 25: Despite numerous directions from the Division Bench of the State High Court, the concerned authorities have failed to make any headway on acquisition of land for restoration of original area of world famous Gharana wetland situated along the International Border with Pakistan in R S Pura tehsil.
Moreover, no time-frame has been fixed for start of work on the Integrated Development Plan for the wetland prepared by the Wildlife Department in compliance to the orders from the highest court of the State.
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) titled Rattan Singh Versus State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Division Bench of the State High Court in the month of December last year had issued direction for exploring possibilities to acquire land to restore the original area of Gharana wetland.
The direction was issued by the Division Bench headed by the then Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed after the counsels for the petitioner as well as the then Additional Advocate General had fairly admitted in the court that acquisition of around 408 kanals of land in the vicinity of Gharana wetland was the only option available for restoring the pristine glory of the world-famous water body.
Dubbing Gharana wetland as a jewel on Jammu’s crown, the then Chief Justice had stated: “No one can afford to lose it by shutting eyes towards its continuous shrinkage as such State should explore the possibilities for acquiring around 408 kanals of land to restore the original area of Gharana wetland”. He had even laid stress on proper coordination among all the concerned agencies in this regard.
The DB had even asked for preparation of Integrated Development Plan for the wetland and establishment of Sewage Treatment Plan by the Wildlife Department.
These directions were reiterated by the Division Bench on March 5, 2018 and thereafter on July 27, 2018 when four weeks time was granted for filing status report with regard to Integrated Development Plan, Sewage Treatment Plant and proceedings initiated for land acquisition.
However, despite numerous directions from the highest court of the State, the concerned authorities of the Jammu district administration have failed to make any headway on acquisition of land for restoring the original area of the wetland up to large extent, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“The Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) concerned few days back conveyed to the Wildlife Department that no Government land is available in the vicinity of the Gharana wetland as such Wildlife Department should go in for acquisition of private land”, they said.
Now, the Wildlife Department has decided to approach the Deputy Commissioner Jammu for initiating proceedings for acquisition of private land in the vicinity of the wetland to implement the directions of the High Court without any further delay, sources said while expressing inability to specify any timeframe for initiation and completion of this exercise.
About other directions of the High Court, sources said that Integrated Development Plan for the wetland which also includes setting up of Sewage Treatment Plan has been prepared by the Wildlife Department. “The plan will be placed before the High Court as and when the Public Interest Litigation comes up for hearing”, they said, adding “it would be only after the approval of the High Court that steps towards implementation of plan will be initiated by the Wildlife Department”.
“In view of this, no time-frame has been fixed for start of work on the Integrated Development Plan, which otherwise would go a long way in making Gharana wetland most attractive place for the tourists”, sources said.
Disclosing that funds would not be any constraint for the implementation of Integrated Development Plan, they said that under this plan eight to ten feet embankment will be constructed near the boundaries of the wetland so as to facilitate plying of electric carts or tricycles for easy movement of the tourists.
Moreover, sufficient number of view-points will be constructed so that tourists enjoy the beauty of the wetland without disturbing the birds, they informed. “It is the high-time for the senior Government functionaries to intervene and ensure that every direction of the High Court is implemented in letter and spirit that too in a time bound manner”, sources stressed.
It is pertinent to mention here that total area of the Gharana wetland was 1500 kanals including the catchment area. However, in the year 2009 the same was found only 213 kanals and 14 marlas. Of this, only 97 kanals area could be demarcated during the exercise carried out on the directions of the Division Bench.