‘Authority fails to come up to mark’
*Manasbal Authority too impleaded as respondent
JAMMU, May 24: In a PIL regarding protection of the Wular Lake and removal of all hutments and encroachments within the catchment area, Division Bench of High Court comprising Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Moksha Khajuria Kazmi has expressed annoyance over wasting of Central funds for conservation of lake.
“We are pained to notice that the Government has created the Wular Lake Conservation and Management Authority for a specific purpose but the Authority is not able to come up to the mark, rather, it appears to have been wasting the money sanctioned and provided by the Union of India”, the DB said, adding “the last order clearly indicates that 380 Kanals and 11 Marlas of the Wular Lake is still under encroachment and efforts are being taken to retrieve the land”.
“None of the authorities is coming forward with any specific time limit within which they propose to retrieve the land”, the DB said, adding “it is also recorded that Rs 200 crore more have been provided by the Union of India for conservation and management of wetland. The report on record mentions that under the Wular Action Plan, about Rs 125 crore have already been spent”.
“Residents of about 33 villages around the Wular Lake dump garbage into the lake area and none of the authorities are able to check the dumping or to provide any alternative site”, the DB further said, adding “on last date, we had directed the Senior Additional Advocate General to indicate the strength of the staff of Wular Conservation and Management Authority; the number of persons employed and the effective steps taken by the Authority for conservation and preservation of the lake”.
In response, the Additional PCCF/Chief Executive Director, Wular Conservation and Management Authority, Kashmir, has filed Action Taken Report on 08.11.2021 simply stating that the Authority is making sincere efforts for conservation and preservation of the lake. It has staff strength of 43 employees only which are all drawn on deputation and that there is no separate sanctioned staff in the Authority.
After going through the ATR, DB said that Chief Executive Director owns an explanation as to what action he has taken to get the staff for the Authority sanctioned and for its appointment, as also how the amount of Rs 125 crore provided by the Union of India has been spent with complete details of the heads under which the expenses have been incurred. DB also directed to report about the steps taken for retrieving the balance land of the Wular Lake.
DB pained to notice that the Government has created the Wular Lake Conservation and Management Authority for a specific purpose but the Authority is not able to come up to the mark, rather, it appears to have been wasting the money sanctioned and provided by the Union of India.
“Apart from this Authority, there is another Authority with the name of Manasbal and Wular Development Authority that is entrusted with the work of the tourism development. The court is not aware as to what action or steps the said Authority has taken for development of tourism around the Wular Lake”, the DB said and directed the Authority to submit an Action Taken Report showing the steps taken by it for the development of tourism.
As the Manasbal and Wular Development Authority is not party to the PIL, DB directed that the Authority shall be impleaded as respondent through its Chief Executive Officer. “We expect that the Amicus Curaie appointed in this case may visit and take a round of the Wular Lake and to submit his own assessment with regard to the conservation and management/development of tourism around the lake”, the DB said.
The DB hoped that the respondent-authorities would take effective steps to ensure that the Amicus Curaie is able to visit the area subject to security arrangements as per the convenience of the authorities according to the prefixed date and time which shall be informed to the Amicus Curaie well in advance, may be in the presence of officers of the two Authorities.
The DB also requested Advocate General D C Raina to co-ordinate between the various departments and to place before court the precise stand of the respondents with regard to the conservation and preservation of Wular Lake as also regarding the utilization of money sanctioned by the Union of India for the purpose.