J&K awaits maiden Environmental Policy

Suhail Bhat
Srinagar, Dec 23: Jammu and Kashmir’s maiden Environmental policy is yet to be enacted despite the passing of almost two years since the policy document was made public for comments.
The policy was drafted to protect this ecologically fragile zone from environmental threats such as global warming, unplanned urbanization, deforestation, and encroachment on water bodies, but Jammu and Kashmir appears unconcerned about the region’s delicate environment, as no progress has been made in implementing the policy.
“This policy has not progressed and has not yet been implemented. The policy is very important because it will address many environmental issues such as deforestation, pollution, shrinking of water bodies, and so on”, Shakeel Ramshoo, a top scientist, said, adding that Jammu and Kashmir urgently needs an environmental policy due to its vulnerability to natural disasters and rising demand for natural resources as a result of uncontrolled growth.
Loss and degradation of forests and biodiversity, loss of wetlands, deterioration of rivers, worrisome rates of air, water, and soil contamination, conversion of paddy land for other uses, the threat of solid waste, climate change, and industrial pollution are among the challenges listed in the Policy.
In 2011, the J&K administration decided to draft a State Environmental Policy in order to decrease negative environmental consequences by pursuing sustainable development. However, the policy’s design faced numerous challenges.
“Severe floods in 2014 obliterated major records relevant to the policy. In 2016, a law and order crisis hampered the procedure even more. Despite a few hiccups, we were able to complete the draft, “officials involved in the project said.
He said that a participative approach to environmental preservation is urgently needed. “That is exactly what the policy proposes as it intends to promote a participatory approach to environmental protection and management by involving relevant Government agencies, the private sector, civil society and communities in the planning, implementation, and decision-making processes”, he added.
Neelu Gera, Director of Ecology, Environment, and Remote Sensing, told Excelsior that the policy document has progressed to the next step, and the policy will be implemented soon. “It has progressed to the next stage, and we are working on it”, she added.