*Plantation at snail’s pace despite funds availability
JAMMU, July 3: No doubt several schemes of the Union Government have been playing vital role in the development of the State but at the same time they are also contributing to air pollution, which has already become a major issue in Jammu and Kashmir. This is mainly because the agencies engaged in implementation of schemes have failed to evolve mechanism in respect of environmental management and conservation.
According to the official data, a large number of roads constructed under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in the length and breadth of the State have yet not been black topped thereby contributing to air pollution, which is gradually increasing with every passing year and becoming health hazard.
A total of 176 roads in Kashmir and 336 roads in Jammu have been constructed so far. Of these, about 2000 kilometers of roads constructed under PMGSY were still without premixing, metalling and shingling thereby contributing to air pollution by dust generation.
This has been viewed very seriously by the Committee on Environment of State Legislature in its latest report and it has impressed upon the department to take up the matter on priority with the Government of India so that rest of the incomplete works are completed to ensure pollution free environs.
“This is mainly because the executing agency has failed to evolve a mechanism to overcome this problem by getting premixing, metalling and shingling process completed in a time bound manner”, the Committee has remarked, adding “in this way there is not much focus on environmental protection, which otherwise is imperative to minimize the impact of air pollution on the human beings”.
Not only roads under the PMGSY even the widening of National Highway is also contributing to the air pollution. Quoting an instance in this regard, the Committee on Environment has expressed grave concern over the plight of the National Highway from Nashri to Banihal, which owing to its difficult terrain besides generating dust was contributing a lot to the air pollution.
Notwithstanding the claims of the National Highway Authority of India, the Committee has expressed dis-satisfaction over the disposal of muck and solid waste generated during the excavation process. Pointing towards specific site at Nashri, the House Panel said, “the muck was directly thrown into the adjacent nullah in blatant violation of laid down guidelines”.
Stating that some stretches of forest land at National Highway which came under four lanning project right from Lakhanpur to Udhampur were having beautiful plantation on both the sides, the Committee on Environment said, “though the National Highway Authority of India has given money to Social Forestry Department for plantation from Lakhanpur to Samba but the task has not been fully accomplished by the concerned agency as only the divider has so far been covered”.
Now, it is said that a project has been prepared for taking the side plantation right from Lakhanpur to Samba and also from Vijaypur to Narwal Chowk, which would most probably be covered fully in 2-3 years.
It has also come to the fore through the report of Committee on Environment that around 441.47 hectares of forest land has come under the process of road widening in Jammu and Kashmir and around 83,404 trees have so far been felled.
“Though the funds are being properly provided to the Forest Department yet the same didn’t seem to have been utilized by the department to the desired extent as a result of which compensatory affores-tation has yet not picked up the required momentum”, the report said.
Due to construction of certain roads, the wildlife has got disturbed as a result of which the wild animals come to the human habitation thereby posing a threat to precious human lives.
“All this clearly indicates that there is absolutely no focus on environmental management and conservation and development is being ensured at the cost of environment”, environmentalists said, adding “unless a mechanism is evolved to overcome this problem, the degradation of environment and increase in air pollution would continue”.