Finally, Govt wakes up from deep slumber, initiates steps to finalize Environment Policy

Draft likely to be placed before SAC by next month end

Admits forests degrading alarmingly, wetlands shrinking fast

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Aug 23: Finally, the Government has woken up from the deep slumber and initiated steps for having comprehensive Environment Policy while admitting that forests are degrading alarmingly and wetlands are facing tremendous ecological stress because of varied reasons thereby contributing to environment degradation.
The EXCELSIOR in its edition dated July 29, 2018 had exclusively highlighted that because of absolute non-seriousness on the part of the Government the Environment Policy draft prepared by the Department of Environment and Remote Sensing was gathering dust in the official files during the past one year.
Following these revelations, several rounds of deliberations were held at the highest level in the Government and finally the Chief Secretary issued directions to the Department of Forest, Environment and Ecology to initiate steps so as to finalize the draft Environment Policy within shortest possible time.
Now, vide Notice No.DERS/18/D-85/1754, the draft State Environment Policy-2018 has been put in the public domain for inviting comments and suggestions from stakeholders, Non-Governmental Organizations, civil society groups and concerned departments, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
For completion of this exercise four weeks time-frame has been fixed by the Government following which Commissioner Secretary to Government, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests/Director, Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing will initiate steps for incorporation or rejection of comments and suggestions, sources said, adding “it is likely that by the end of next month the draft Environment Policy will be placed before the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor for approval and notification”.
“J&K is facing environmental degradation as a result of unsustainable use of its natural resources for economic growth and development”, the Government said in the draft Environment Policy, adding “the main human activities contributing to environmental degradation include population growth, inappropriate technology and consumption choices, unsustainable land use practices, poor soil and water management practices, deforestation, overgrazing and pollution.
In the draft Environment Policy, the Government has admitted that forests are degrading alarmingly and the biodiversity base is shrinking and disrupting the ecology seriously. “This is leading to alarming fall in water availability in the rivers and other wetland systems and also to landslides and heavy sedimentation of reservoirs”, the Government said.
“Unfortunately, our unique wetlands are facing tremendous ecological stress primarily because they are visualized only as a source of water ignoring their vitality as a holistic biotic system”, the Government said, adding “in spite of being the very productive ecosystems wetlands are confined mainly to Kashmir valley and the remaining patches are also facing increasing threats especially from new industrial and infrastructure development projects”.
Stating that river ecosystem in J&K has also deteriorated because of sand mining, encroachment and over exploitation, the Government said, “mining from the rivers and paddy lands is causing not only unaccounted ecological losses but eventually will affect food and water security”, adding “attempts to regulate it through the district administration and police have not been able to curb this menace”.
While admitting alarming rate of air, water and soil contamination, the draft said, “it is a matter of serious concern that tonnes of chemical fertilizers are being pumped into the agricultural land in the name of increasing productivity and chemical pesticides, even those banned, are sprayed indiscriminately in the name of protecting the crop from pests”, adding “analysis of pesticide residues in the State shows that most of our food and water are contaminated at various levels”.
Dubbing conversion of paddy fields for cash crops, construction and other development activities as alarming, the draft said, “these activities have made serious erosion in food production in the State. Moreover, these activities affect water availability as paddy fields essentially are water conserving tanks and replenishing the ground water”, adding “highest priority is required to be given to the protection of paddy fields and revival of paddy cultivation”.
“The climate change poses significant environmental challenges for J&K as is evident from frequent cloudbursts and water shortages”, the draft said, adding “other adverse impacts of climate change can be seen in the form of frequent and intensified natural disasters such as floods, landslides and prolonged droughts and managing climate related disasters remains a significant challenge”.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, the Government said, “the State Environment Policy aims to conserve, protect, restore and enhance environment in order to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through sustainable management and use of environment and natural resources “.