How sad that repeated warnings about the threat to water bodies in the State have fallen on deaf ears. Concerned Government agencies show no interest in responding to the warning given by competent authorities not only within the State but also from committees constituted by the Centre. The State authorities seem to be unable to control pollution of water bodies and arrest environmental degradation that has set in since long. Nobody takes seriously the warnings that water bodies like lakes, springs, rivers and nullahs could lead to a disaster of great magnitude. Why there is such abysmal apathy towards protecting the natural environs of the State is a question that needs to be probed into.
The Committee on Environment of the Legislative Assembly comprising 20 legislators has tabled its report dealing with the status of water pollution and environmental degradation in the State and its possible consequences. This is a sad commentary on a subject that has immense importance of not one but so many aspects like health, agriculture, tourism, sanitation etc. The House Panel is disappointed with poor performance of the concerned agencies. It rightly asks the question what was the fun of constituting the Committee when its recommendations and suggestions carry no weight with the Government authorities and are treated as junk. The garbage dumped openly in Gulmarg does not entitle Gulmarg to be called a tourist destination. Gulmarg Development Authority has not been able to deliver the goods for reasons not known. The House Panel laments that the holy River Tawi is dying just because of apathy and lack of interest on the part of the concerned authorities in the Government. Perhaps we could say that even the civil society, too, is responsible to some extent to this appalling environmental scenario. Speaking particularly of Kashmir valley, the Committee has observed that it is sad and disappointing that a place with such natural scenic beauty and stately environs should become the victim of man’s callousness and lack of a sense of appreciation for the grandeur of nature. There are innumerable natural water springs in the length and breadth of the Valley most of which are drying up because these are polluted and their water has been rendered not fit for drinking. The Department of Environment does not care to clean these springs and make them functional once again.
The biggest loss owing to pollution of water bodies and environmental degradation accrues to the Department of Tourism. Although tourism has been categorized as a prestigious organization in the State, yet how that status can be maintained is not the subject on which the authorities are focusing. Pollution is spreading at a rapid pace and overtaking the cherished spots of tourists. These spots are under threat. The department is unable to exploit the tourist potential to the maximum. In Kashmir we have enormous potential for pleasure tourism and in Jammu region we have equal potential for pilgrim tourism. But in both cases, the threat is of pollution of air and water and spoilation of the environment. Katra town has emerged into prominence owing to massive pilgrim tourism for Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. But the town is gradually turning into a slum taking into account the need for keeping it free from garbage and litter.
We would suggest that the concerned departments should give due weight to the reports and suggestions of the Committee on Environment of the Legislative Assembly. It has now framed a Sub-Committee. The Departments of Tourism and Environment should become a part of the Sub-Committee, which will be paying visits to tourist destinations and other places of importance from the point of view of clean environments and submit its report to the House Committee. The thrust has to be on how to effectively control pollution and save water bodies so as to endear them to the tourists.