Surveillance Task Force – just for namesake

Unbelievable it may sound but it is only a fact that the member officers on the Special Environment Surveillance Task Force are reported to have feigned ignorance about the very constitution of the Force or any such initiative having been taken by the State Government in response to the directive of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). This has resulted in the menace of unabated illegal mining in the polluted stretches of the main rivers in Jammu and Kashmir.
What are, in fact, polluted stretches of a river and how are they defined and by which authority – all needs to be known. It is the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) which is monitoring the quality of water in India under National Water Quality Monitoring Programme. Water quality data is analysed for a specific period and monitoring locations exceeding the water quality norms are identified as polluted locations but with regard to “risk”. It is this risk factor which defines the polluted stretch. The risk, in simpler parlance is the degree of violation with respect to water quality criteria for drinking with conventional treatment. State Pollution Control Board has identified a five kilometre belt of River Devika as the polluted stretch, Banganga has three kilometres while River Tawi has five kilometres of such identified stretch. River Chenab has 12 kilometres polluted stretch. Similarly, in Kashmir province, Chuntkol has five kilometres , River Jehlum has 40 kilometres , Sind river has 3.7 kilometres as identified polluted stretches.
Illegal sand mining in rivers of Jammu and Kashmir has reached the menacing levels where either in the name of dredging with machines , or in active connivance with some of the concerned State department officials, or the influence wielded by the sand mafia, the mining goes on as a routine affair and since the after-effects of unbridled mining or open ravaging of the minerals of the rivers being horrendous , National Green Tribunal has , from time to time, been issuing guidelines and directives to the State Governments as to which specific measures needed to be taken to stop illegal mining in rivers. Such latest directives having already been issued in September 2018 by the Tribunal received the attention of the State Government only in late February this year and the authorities of the General Administration Department constituted Special Environment Surveillance Task Force.
Now that the Task Force is constituted for two months now, it has totally failed to start checking illegal mining in the identified polluted stretches of the main rivers in the State. Not only this , so far , officers have not been nominated in those districts where rivers have polluted stretches. The limit stands crossed with several District Officers of the Pollution Control Board being totally unaware of Special Environment Surveillance Task Force when they were asked about the steps taken on ground to check illegal mining . They were equally appearing to be ignorant about any official meeting having been called by the respective heads of the Task Force. State Government needs to accord its preferred attention towards the problem especially in the light of the orders of the NGT being of binding nature as a decree from a court and non compliance is actionable by way of punitive action including prosecution.