HC warns LAWDA over illegal constructions in Dal, Nigeen

Rs 1500 cr needed for restoration of lakes in 3 yrs: CoE

Excelsior Correspondent

SRINAGAR, Oct 21: The High Court today sought response from the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) to the report submitted by the Committee of Experts (CoE) with regard to bringing the lost pristine glory of world famous Dal and Nigeen lakes back and recommended that LAWDA is the most appropriate authority to be made responsible and accountable for these two lakes and estimated an amount of Rs 1500 crore is required for their restoration.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rashid Ali Dar castigated the Vice Chairman LAWDA who in person submitted before the bench that the report of CoEs is not correct so far as it concerns with regard to performance of LAWDA towards the lakes.
The DB after these submissions heavily came down on the LAWDA with the observation that the CoE has a liberal role in the issue and they don’t have any personal interest in the job which is assigned to them, still you (VC LAWDA) can take this issue with CoE.
The CJ during the proceedings of the case warned strict action against the LAWDA for rampant unauthorized and illegal constructions that are going on within the periphery of the lake which the Court said, is evident from the numerous applications being filed before the Court by the vehicle owners for release of their vehicles, who have been caught with constructional material around the lake. “Unauthorized and illegal construction are going on under the shield of law and order excuse by the LAWDA”, the CJ pointed out to the VC LAWDA.
Committee said in the report that a large number of recommendations and directions have been communicated to different authorities within the Government and primarily to VC LAWDA but execution and implementation of these recommendations and directions have been neglected.
“We have not been able to show any tangible improvements to the conditions of these lakes and feel distressed and disappointed. The solution lies in having a unified and empowered authority with full powers and financial resources to carry out the directions of the CoE”, the Committee said.
In its special report, the CoE has brought major issues and areas before the Court that need to be tackled for restoration of the lakes to their original glory. Those are sewage and polluted water flowing into the lake, pollution from houseboats, boundary demarcation, protection of catchment areas, relocation and rehabilitation of encroachers and title holders from the lake area, removal of floating gardens inside the lake, de-weeding & disposal of weeds, solid waste and dredging of the lake.
Committee as such concluded that if the Dal-Nigeen lake is to be rejuvenated and brought back to its original glory and grandeur and a system put in place for its sustainable maintenance then it is necessary that LAWDA has to be free from control and dominance by the line department, by the upgrading its status and through empowerment. LAWDA, the CoE said, should be headed by a competent technocrat or bureaucrat with technical experience, of impeccable integrity and track record and of the rank of a Principal Secretary to Government. “He should be delegated full statutory authority and powers to handle all the problems that have been enumerated earlier”, the special report read.
The CoE has also recommended that a realistic assessment of the funds needed for the restoration of the lake has to be made and requisite funds should be kept at the disposal of VC-LAWDA from year to year. “VC LAWDA should strengthen his organization with competent experts, and if need be, selected from open market”, read the report.
The Committee in light of the special report prayed before the Court that appropriate directions be given as deemed fit by the Court. Further the Committee mentioned in the report that it will review the performance of VC LAWDA every fortnight.
Since the appointment of CoE last year, Court has been informed that close interaction with VC-LAWDA and his supporting staff, Committee has realized that even though LAWDA is a statutory body, it functions as an extended minor department of the Government as the authority (VC) has very little powers to take decisions on its own nor adequate funds are at its disposal.
“The staff in LAWDA is mostly on deputation with no fixity of tenure. Very often, it is dumping ground for unwanted persons of other departments who are happy to be in LAWDA to avoid transfers out of Srinagar. Diligence, sincerity, integrity and accountability appear to be lacking in them”, Committee noted in the report.
Committee has pointed out that a draft Bill to restructure LAWDA to make it into a compact, independent, professionally and technically enabled body, with clear role, responsibilities and accountability was circulated to the CoE on which it had given detailed remarks about 8 months back but nothing has been heard on this Bill.
Committee has remarked that it is lack of seriousness on part of Government which is evident from the fact that during the last one year, the VC has been changed four times in spite of the directions of the Court that a senior officer who is technically competent should be posted as VC LAWDA with a sufficiently long tenure.