Army, Navy, CRPF, Police launch massive operation in lake

Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, Aug 28: A massive operation has been launched by the security forces in Wullar lake and its adjoining areas near militancy infested Sopore town in North Kashmir after heavily armed militants last night blasted off a portion of prestigious Rs 398 crore project for the Conservation of Wullar Lake and threatened the engineers and workers and asked them to abandon the project.
Highly places sources said that 5-7 heavily armed militants appeared at village Ningli in Wullar area, around 5 kilometers from Sopore, at around 11:30 p.m. last night and beat up 5-6 engineers and workers of the project who were putting up in the hutments at the Wullar Conservation project site.
The militants also blasted off a portion of the project just to terrorize the engineers and workers. sources said that no major damage was done with the IED explosion to the project. The workers and engineers were asked to leave by 11 a.m. and stop work on the project with immediate effect. Sources said that the militants spent several hours at the project site and a couple of police men who were on duty there reportedly fled from the area soon after the militants left and reported to the police.
Sources said that soon after militants left the site, the engineers and workers started fleeing from the place and work remained suspended through out the day today. Around 300 people are reportedly associated with the project.
They added that early in the morning Army, Navy, Police and CRPF arrived at the spot and a massive man hunt was launched to track the militants responsible for the blast and threatening of the engineers and workers of the project.
Sources said that decision of targeting of the project may have been taken at the highest level by militant leadership in Pakistan as the neighbouring country felt that in the name of conservation of the Wullar lake, the Government of India is violating the Indus Water treaty.
It may be mentioned here that power projects in Jammu and Kashmir especially Baglihar in Jammu are facing security threat. Three years ago one of the captured militants revealed to his interrogators that the Baglihar power project on river Chenab in Jammu is under the hit list of militants. After that the security of the project was intensified.
Sources said that the Superintendent of Police (SP) Sopore, Imtiaz Hussain, however, assured the engineers and workers at the site who were still present there that police will be provided them adequate security.
Entire area is still sealed and no movement is allowed in the entire area. Sources said that the cell phones in the nearby villages have been put on surveillance for tracking the movement of these heavily armed militants.
The unit of the Indian Navy that is stationed at Watlab in Wullar lake is assisting the security forces in the operation in the Wullar lake, the sources said.
The Wullar Conservation project is a major centrally sponsored project that is aimed at restoring the glory of the once, Asia’s largest fresh water lake. The conservation project is Rs 398 crore and is named as Wullar Conservation Project.
The Wullar lake has been encroached upon over the past century reducing it from 217 sq km to just 125 sq km. There are about 62,000 kanals (3,100 hectares) of Wullar Lake which has been encroached over last two decades.
The mega Wullar conservation project has been sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forestry as per the project prepared by the Wetland International. An amount of Rs 120 crore stands sanctioned under 13th Finance Commission for the purpose. The conservation plan will focus on removing encroachments and weeding out around 22.5 lakh full grown trees and the process will be started in a phased manner.
The project is also aimed at strengthening of the banks near the river Jhelum so that water level is maintained during the winters when the discharge for the downstream 1065 MWs power projects like Uri Civil-I, Uri Civil –II (under construction) and Lower Jhelum is very low affecting their power generation. With the completion of this prestigious project and the stabilization of the water level, the state government may earn Rs 60 crore per year extra as water usage charge from the NHPC.

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