Crores of rupees pumped into Dal lake sans result: HC

Srinagar, Dec 5: Observing that crores of rupees have been pumped into efforts for saving and protecting the Dal Lake but none of the measures has shown any result, the J&K High Court has issued a slew of measures to protect the famous water body in heart of the Srinagar.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of the court headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal directed the Chief Secretary to sufficiently empower the Vice Chairman appointed to head LAWDA to take steps for cohesion in its working and provide able and accountable leadership with a commitment to the objective.

“The Chief Secretary may examine the recommendation of the COE (Committee of Experts) for the creation of a fully dedicated and empowered Dal Lake Conservation and Development Authority,” the court said. It ordered that steps be taken towards gradual elimination of floating gardens and in this regard ordered that the COE may examine and recommend to LAWDA the manner in which the existing boundaries of floating gardens be marked immediately so that there was no expansion.

“LAWDA shall put non-removable markers indicating present boundaries of the floating gardens. These may also be put on paper and supported with video and photographic evidence.”

The court also directed that LAWDA shall immediately ascertain the details of families exclusively dependent on vegetable cultivation within the Lake within a period of one week. LAWDA, the court said, shall draw out and implement the plan to rehabilitate such families providing them avenues for gainful employment including agriculture as there will result in an unmet demand within the city for the vegetables itself, upon dismantling of these gardens.

The LAWDA, the court said, shall undertake effective steps for the simultaneous cessation of all vegetable cultivation and rehabilitation of the growers over the next three months.

LAWDA shall forthwith issue notices asking all the commercial establishment to install technically suitable and environmental friendly arrangements within three months for treatment of sewage and sullage (grey water) within their premises itself without releasing any sewage or sullage into the Dal or into any Nallah that flows into the Dal or any other Lake, the court said.

“The establishment shall be directed to intimate LAWDA of the compliance of the directions which shall be subject to inspection by LAWDA and the J&K State Pollution Control Board.”

Regarding stopping pollution of the lake from catchments, the court ordered LAWDA and the state government to forthwith undertake steps for generating awareness among families living and cultivating in the catchment areas and upstream.

With regard to stopping the pollution from the Houseboats, the State Government and LAWDA must immediately assess and evaluate the optimum number of houseboats which could be permitted to be anchored in the Dal Lake and submit a report to the COE and before the court on next date of hearing, the division bench said. “In case the existing number of houseboats is beyond the ideal number, registrations/ licences of houseboats which lapse should not be renewed and steps should be taken to bring the maximum number to the ideal number of houseboats.”

The LAWDA, the court said, must identify houseboats which are anchored illegally in the Dal Lake and forthwith stop their operation and remove them from the Lake.

LAWDA, the court said, shall take immediate steps for removal of the illegal encroachment and constructions affected by the houseboat owners near the houseboats. “LAWDA shall issue seven days notices to the houseboat owners for removing the illegal constructions, encroachments, activities and thereafter the same shall be removed by LAWDA.

The notices issued shall inform the houseboat owner that its registration and licence would stand revoked/ cancelled in case the illegal construction/ encroachment and activity is not removed forthwith.”

The court further ordered that a report in this regard with photographs before and after removal shall be filed by LAWDA on court record before the next date of hearing in the PIL on December 17.