Save Vishaw river of Kulgam

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
From last few months I have been constantly writing on the deplorable condition of our water bodies especially lakes and rivers. In past I highlighted the woeful condition of Devika, Doodh Ganga, Tawi and Ferozpur rivers. In addition to it I wrote a piece on the worthless condition of Wullarlake as well. Today I am focusing towards South Kashmir’s Kulgam district where the mighty Vishaw river also called Vishaw nalla his under threat. Vishaw is a major tributary of river Jehlum that originates from PirPanjaal glaciers around Kouser Nag. It forms a huge waterfall at Aharbal which is thronged by large number of visitors in summer months. This pristine water-body after travelling around 25 kms from Aharbal gets severely polluted near Kulgam. One can’t even compare the two places. At Aharbal or Wattoo village Vishaw is clean and neat but at Kulgam and down stream it is filthy.
The municipal solid waste generated in Kulgam town (15 metric tons per day) is dumped on the banks of this river on daily basis by none other than the municipal authorities themselves. From last 10 years District Administration is claiming that a scientific landfill site is being set up in the town outskirts but till date Government has miserably failed to do so. In 2014 when I posted the shabby pics of Vishaw on facebook, the then DC Kulgam Dr Abdi Rashid who is presently DC Pulwama told me that within six months scientific landfill site would be operational but that never happened even after 5 years.
On one hand BJP led Government at center claims that Swatch Bharat Mission (SBM) has been a successful initiative , but when it comes to Jammu & Kashmir state its implementation has been very much disappointing . Only thing visible under this SBM is construction of lavatories which are marred by large scale corruption and bungling both in urban and rural areas. The 2nd part of SMB especially SMB Graminie Solid and Liquid Waste / Resource Management is yet to undertaken by the authorities and from last 5 years not even a single viable project has been made operational in any block of J&K.
Garbage dumping in Vishaw
Local Municipal Committee (MC) is using Vishaw river to dump all the municipal solid waste and animal carcasses. The same water is supplied to dozens of villages for drinking purpose by department of PHE as many water supply schemes lift water from the same river. On daily basis 10 to 15 metric tons (MTs) of municipal solid waste is collected from town and then unloaded on the banks of Vishaw river on the outskirts of town. Earlier I was under the impression than mere 2 to 3 Metric Tons of garbage is collected and dumped by local municipality of the banks of Vishaw river , but when I found from the draft Master Plan of Kulgam town that around 13 to 15 MTs of municipal solid waste gets generated in the town on daily basis, I was stunned. The garbage dumped on the banks of the river gets mixed with water especially when the water level in the river increases especially during rainfall. This unclean and polluted water is supplied to people after mere chlorination and some sedimentation. Chlorination , sedimentation or filtration does not make water safe for drinking and that is the reason people suffer from various kinds of ailments due to intake of unclean water supplied by PHE in various villages of Kulgam especially the villages located around this nallah from Kulgam to Anantnag. As mentioned in my previous columns many other municipal committees area are also involved in this heinous crime. The Municipal Council Udhampur dumps all its municipal solid waste collected from Udhampur town in the forest on National Highway-44 . While travelling on Jammu Srinagar highway one can see huge mounds of garbage collected from different areas of Udhampur town lying scattered near the highway. This municipal waste is also burnt which emits toxic gases. From last several years the said forest area is being used as garbage dumping site by the local municipality. Irony is that many water-bodies are located around this garbage dumping site especially the Devika river. All the garbage and liquid oozing out from it finally gets mixed with Devika River.
Kulgam Master Plan
The first ever master plan for Kulgam town was submitted to the Government for approval few months back by Town Planning Organisation Kashmir.The draft master plan 2038 has been submitted to the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) for final approval. Out of 2060.95 hectares of land, around 815 hectares of land would be developed ie 40 % approximately and the rest of 1245 hectares ie 60 % or more would be green land would remain under cultivation, plantation, water bodies, buffers and orchards.The developed land is proposed to be increased from existing 368.08 hectares to 815.76 hectares by 2038, constituting 39.58 per cent of total proposed area.More than 52 per cent of the proposed developed area has been earmarked for residential use. While discussing the sanitation and solid waste disposal the mater-plan has not been able to provide a detailed mechanism to address this issue.
In its report the Town Planning Organization has accepted the fact that Municipal CommitteeKulgam does not perform satisfactorily as for as waste management is concerned. This has been attributed to lack of finances, machinery and skilled manpower. The Master Plan 2038 proposes collection of solid waste from households, commercial areas and containers into local dumps.It focusses on only buying of machinery and equipment while as there is no mention of setting up a scientific landfill site or creating behavioral change among local residents by way of handholding and asking people to go for composting the organic waste inside kitchen gardens or orchards. If this is done we can reduce 50 percent municipal solid waste in town.
If the master plan of Kulgam town is not able to deliberate and explain in detail how to tackle the solid waste problem of the town, one can get an insight how serious Government is about this issue ? Master plan has not thrown light on water being polluted by municipal solid waste. There is hardly any mention of water pollution in Vishaw river. It is urged upon the Government to revisit Kulgam town master plan and ensure special attention is given to town’s scientific solid waste management. Before drafting the master plan, the local community should have been taken on board….
(The author is Chairman of JK RTI Movement)