Officers’ panel fails to meet deadline for finalization of draft notification

Declaration of Dal lake, surroundings as eco-sensitive zone

*HC’s explicit directives remain unimplemented

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Jan 24: Adopting casual approach towards the pathetic condition of world famous Dal lake, a committee of officers has failed to meet the deadline for the finalization of draft notification for declaring the water body and its surrounding areas as eco-sensitive zone.
This is notwithstanding the fact that High Court of Jammu and Kashmir is continuously monitoring all the aspects relating to Dal lake and has issued numerous directions to different Government agencies so that condition of the water body doesn’t deteriorate further in the coming years.
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan in the month of April last year had directed the Government to examine the possibility of declaring Dal lake area as eco-sensitive zone under the Environment Protection Act.
The DB had further asked the Secretary, Forest and Environment Department to place a report in this regard before the court appointed Committee of Experts within four weeks.
The direction from the highest court of Jammu and Kashmir came following the suggestions by the members of Committee of Experts Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, Dr Nivedita P Haran, Dr Mangu Singh and M C Mehta, who had made a detailed power point presentation in the court.
The Government vide Order No.09-JK(GAD) of 2019 dated November 7, 2019 constituted a committee to finalize the draft of the notification for declaring Dal lake and its surrounding areas as eco-sensitive zone.
The committee comprising of Chief Conservator of Forests, Kashmir, Director Tourism Kashmir, Director, Industries and Commerce Kashmir, Vice-Chairman of J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, Commissioner Srin-agar Municipal Corporation, Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir, Regional Director, J&K State Pollution Control Board, Director Agriculture Kashmir, Chief Town Planner Kashmir and representative of the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs was directed to finalize the draft notification within a period of one month.
“What to talk of completing the task by December 7, 2019 as per the timeline fixed by the Government, the committee of officers has yet not finalized the draft of the notification till date”, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding “though some meetings were convened yet there was no consensus among the members of the committee as a result of which the High Court’s directives have remained unimplemented so far”.
“It is difficult to specify time-frame for the completion of task in view of divergent views”, said some members of the committee when contacted by EXCELSIOR while wishing anonymity.
When contacted Chief Conservator of Forests Kashmir Farooq Gillani admitted that draft of the notification was yet to be finalized. He, however, suggested that Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir would be able to throw more light on the exercise carried out by the committee so far.
However, the Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir Rashid Naqash put the ball in the court of Jammu and Kashmir Lakes and Waterways Development Authority and said, “some preliminary exercise was conducted by the committee but the same could not be taken to the logical conclusion because of certain reasons”.
Sources said, “there is no coordination between the Forest, Ecology and Environment Department and Housing and Urban Development Department, who otherwise are required to work in tandem to get Dal lake and its surrounding areas declared as eco-sensitive zone”.
“Even otherwise these departments and their agencies have key role to play in putting an end to the continuous shrinking of Dal lake”, sources further said, adding “had all the concerned agencies whose officers are members of the committee constituted by the Government been serious to deal with the issues confronting world famous lake its condition would have not deteriorated”.
“The most shocking aspect is that even after intervention of High Court the exercise to declare Dal lake as eco-sensitive zone has not reached the logical conclusion till date”, sources remarked.