Prepared over 3 years back, J&K’s draft Environment Policy yet to get approval

Cross-sectoral issues, causes of degradation remain unaddressed

*Lack of coordination between deptts creating impediments

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Oct 25: Notwithstanding the fact that unsustainable use of natural resources for economic growth and development is causing environmental degradation at an alarming rate in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no focus on giving final shape to the draft Environment Policy which was prepared by Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing more than three years back.
This is mainly because of non-serious approach on the part of Forest Department, which otherwise is supposed to play key role in sorting out inter-departmental issues and hold hectic deliberations with all the stakeholders.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that key challenge that the Jammu and Kashmir is facing relate to environmental degradation as a result of unsustainable use of its natural resources for economic growth and development.
“J&K’s agrarian and tourism based economy is heavily dependent on its natural resources because of its large population in rural areas and their economic dependence on primary natural resources. The main human activities contributing to environmental degradation include poverty, population growth, inappropriate technology and consumption choices, unsustainable land use practices, poor soil and water management practices, deforestation, overgrazing and pollution”, they said.
Sources further said, “developmental activities such as road construction, intensive agriculture, polluting industry and unplanned urbanization leading to changes in relations between people and ecosystems”, adding “the progressive pressure on the environment being witnessed during the past many years makes it imperative to give a new dimension to the environmental conservation programme incorporating action plans in compliance of national and international commitments”.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, draft Environment Policy aimed at guiding the Government’s efforts to deal with considerable and ever-growing environmental issues was framed by the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing in the year 2018 and subsequently the same was put in the public domain for inviting comments and suggestions from stakeholders, Non-Governmental Organizations, civil society groups and departments within 4-weeks’ time.
However, even after the lapse of more than three years the draft Environmental Policy has not been approved as a result of which the Government doesn’t have any proper action plan to address the cross-sectoral issues and causes of degradation, sources informed, adding “what to talk of previous Governments even the present administration is not paying any serious attention towards the necessity of having Environment Policy”.
“The most shocking aspect is that Forest Department, which has an important role to play in the finalization of draft Environment Policy, has not initiated the exercise of holding deliberations with the stakeholders even after receiving comments and suggestions although request in this regard was made by the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing a number of times”, sources further informed.
Disclosing that some departments were opposed to the draft Environment Policy as such it could not be finalized, sources said, “the issues of such departments can be addressed by the Forest Department by holding deliberations but in the absence of any interest from those who are at the helm of affairs in this department the draft policy is gathering dust in the official files”.
They said that draft Environment Policy was prepared to provide an all-encompassing framework for addressing the environmental issues confronting J&K, particularly pollution of fresh water bodies, air pollution, lack of proper waste management, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, desertification, water logging, natural and man-made disasters and climate change. “It also gives directions for addressing the cross sectoral issues, underlying causes of environmental degradation to meet national and international obligations without hampering the present and future development imperatives”, they added.
According to the sources, many sectoral policies and laws are not harmonized with each other. These include policies and laws concerning agriculture, land, water, forests, trade and industry, which have significant implications for the environment.
“The sectoral rather than integrated and ecosystem approach to management of natural resources has proved inadequate in addressing environmental challenges. In addition, weak enforcement of laws and weak implementation of policies remain a major issue of concern in J&K’s environment sector”, they said, adding “the net result of the deteriorating environmental conditions is amply reflected in the fast deteriorating health conditions of the people”.
Some officers of the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing said that recurring contagious diseases, alarmingly increasing life-style diseases, increasing rates of diseases affecting the growing child, especially related to mental growth and learning disabilities, increasing rate of cancers of almost all types, are manifestations of the sublimely poor environment.