DB directs Union Environment Ministry to submit ATR

Plea seeking preservation, conservation of wetlands

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Sept 12: The High Court has directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to submit Action Taken Report (ATR) with regard to preservation and management of wetlands in J&K covered under Ramsar Convention and Wetland Rules.
Hearing the suo-moto Public Interest Litigation, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Puneet Gupta granted the time for filing the Action Taken Report by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
When the PIL came-up for hearing, DB observed, “initially four wetlands of J&K and Ladakh were recognized as of international importance and were declared as Ramsar Sites under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands”, adding “Advocate Nadeem Qadri, Amicus Curiae has submitted that recently three more wetlands of J&K and Ladakh have been added for the Ramsar Sites”.
Now, the wetlands falling within the Ramsar sites are Hokera Wetland, Wular Lake, Tso Kar, Shalbugh, Haigam (Kashmir), Tso Moriri (Ladakh) and Surinsar-Mansar Lakes (Jammu).
In order to focus first on the wetlands of the Ramsar Sites, the DB had directed the Government of Union Territory to come clean with regard to their status and file a complete report regarding all these sites within six weeks.
The High Court following the directions by the Supreme Court on April 3, 2017, had treated an affidavit filed by the petitioner M K Balakrishnan before the Apex Court regarding certain wetlands which were covered under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as PIL.
The Supreme Court had asked the Chief Justices of the concerned High Courts to treat the affidavit as a suo moto PIL and, if necessary, appoint an amicus curiae to assist the court so as 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 of the Apex Court, registered the affidavit as Public Interest Litigation on its own motion. It appointed lawyer Nadeem Qadri as amicus curiae to assist the court.
The amicus curiae subsequently informed the court that as per the Atlas prepared by the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing of the J&K Government, 1230 wetlands had been identified as covered under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 which included the wetlands covered under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The court in its first order on the PIL on August 28, 2018, had observed that a plain reading of the wetland rules would suggest that the authority (J&K Wetland Authority) was to be created by the Centre, which stands now constituted by J&K Government.
“Given the overlap in the rules regarding constitution of the authority between the Central and State Governments, manifests that the Union of India through the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is a proper and necessary party for complete and effective adjudication of the issues raised in this petition,” the High Court had said and subsequently impleaded Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as party respondent in the matter.
While the court had directed for preservation and maintenance of wetlands covered under Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as directed by the SC, it had also directed for conservation of other 1230 wetlands in erstwhile J&K.