Under sub section (3) of rule 5 of Environmental Protection Rules, 1986, certain restrictions have been imposed on new projects or activities and on expansion or modernization of existing projects on the basis of their potential environmental impacts. Prior environmental clearance from the competent authority is necessary in accordance with the objectives of National Environmental Policy as approved by the union cabinet on 18th May, 2006.
Further, public consultation and hearing is required in writing from those having a stake in the environmental aspects of the project or activity. The public hearing at, or in close proximity to, the sites is to be conducted by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and its proceedings are to be sent to the regulatory authority within 45 days. In the event of any violation, those at the helm are also responsible for the offence under Environmental Protection Act.
In this backdrop, the role of the government needs to be assessed. At a review meeting of Wullar, Manasbal and Sonamarg development authorities on 28th August, the chief minister underscored the need to maintain eco-system and to conserve the natural resources and water bodies.
However, one of the sitting legislators has thrown all the environmental policies and laws to the winds and constructed a huge concrete building on a water body polluting it in violation of the Environment Protection Law. The authorities watched the illegality as mute spectators. Neither the Srinagar Municipality Corporation nor the Srinagar Development Authority raised any objection to its construction.
Whom should we blame for the brazen violation the environmental laws: politicians, SMC, SDA, public or the civil society? The SMC is very prompt to demolish the constructions of poor people even if they have no shelter. The authorities of both the SMC and SDA look the other way when illegal structures come up during holidays, with or without their blessing.
After a long silence, the authorities made a hue and cry how it had happened on a water body. The government constituted a committee headed by MLA, Kupwara, and, following its report, work on the showroom was declared illegal and stopped. But, soon after the showroom was inaugurated with a bang by none other than the managing director of Toyota Motors Ltd., Nakagawa, in presence of several prominent citizen and MLAs.
On the next day, the PDP leader, Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari, praised Dr Farooq Abdullah that he had done commendable job for development of Royal Spring Golf Course though the project has evoked lot of criticism as it was developed after destroying the City Forest.
A civil society group, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDC), recently warned the government against human interference on Amarnath yatra route. But it never raised its voice against construction of concrete building on a water body prohibited under law. Why this double standards?
M. Afzal Azad
Sheerwani Colony, Khawaja Bagh, Barmulla.
Formally: Lecturer Biostatistics, Govt. Medical College, Srinagar
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