HC directs removal of encroachments along Jhelum

Excelsior Correspondent
SRINAGAR, Feb 13: The High Court today directed authorities to mobilize the exercise for removing of encroachments along river Jhelum and its tributaries.
The Division Bench of Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey in order to achieve the results in the PIL on protection and preservation of river Jhelum directed all the Deputy Commissioners where from the river flows to mobilize all concerned for ensuring complete removal of encroachments from the their respective districts in coordination with I&FC department.
Court earlier had directed for removing of encroachments from all the canals existing in Kashmir Province and in this regard Deputy Commissioners of the concerned Districts were directed to monitor and to ensure removal of encroachment through concerned authorities.
“The Deputy Commissioners in their respective districts shall mobilize all concerned, in particular Irrigation and Flood Control Department in coordination with concerned Chief Engineer for ensuring complete removal of encroachment from the canals in their respective districts”, DB directed.
Court during the proceedings of the matter observed that to avoid any further devastative floods like that of 2014, all canals which, in fact, are tributaries leading to rival Jhelum are required to be restored to their original position by removing all encroachments and the river Jhelum is also required to be restored to its original position.
“By or before next date, all the Deputy Commissioners shall ensure filing of latest status regarding removal of encroachment from the canals existing in their respective jurisdictions.  The present progress of dredging and removal of encroachment from the banks of rival Jhelum shall also be reported”, read the order.
Court in view of the recent breach on embankment of river near Lasjan outskirts of Srinagar city directed the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar to file the inquiry report within eight days, in default to remain personally present.
In reference to the original width of the canal ranging from 17 feet to 27 feet which by afflux of time has squeezed to the mere 3 feet to 5 feet. Shrinking of the width of the canal was taken serious note of. The Chief Engineer concerned was directed to file an affidavit so as to show how many irrigation canals existed in the Kashmir valley as per official record with their present status.
The affidavit was filed which has been taken note of in the previous order suggesting that as pre record, 522 canals are in existence and functional. In isolated cases, the canals passing through suburbs of Srinagar City and main towns have been encroached upon since last few decades because of urbanization.
Court said the timely action has not been taken for removal of encroachment. Chief Engineer and other statutory authorities of the respondent department were directed to take necessary steps for removal of encroachment and to file compliance report. Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, was to provide necessary assistance to the Chief Engineer.
As Court has already noticed that river Jhelum is the main aquatic life line in the Kashmir valley and it was observed that it is the duty of the Chief Engineer and other statutory authorities to ensure removal of all encroachments from the banks of river Jhelum along its entire course.
Environmental Policy Group have sought relief to direct the authorities to frame and execute a comprehensive Jhelum restoration and flood prevention plan on scientific lines so as to block the future recurrence of flood and inundation of residential areas and also to  furnish details of the amounts received from the Central Government for restoration, repairs of the damaged breaches of Jhelum embankments/bunds and the amount spent so far on the execution of the said restoration work, further a command  be issued to the respondents to ensure completion of dredging of river Jhelum within a stipulated period of time.
Prayer has also been sought that the authorities be directed to undertake the dredging of Wular Lake for restoration of 40% of its lost storage capacity.