HC Seeks Details on Condition of Kashmir Wetlands 

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Srinagar–The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday sought response from various authorities about the condition of wetlands in the state.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation initiated on the directions by the Supreme Court of India, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey arrayed Chief Secretary as party respondent to the PIL along with Commissioner Secretary Forest, commissioner Secretary H&UDD, commissioner Secretary Tourism and Commissioner Secretary Revenue and issued notice to all of them for their reply.

It appointed Senior advocate Z A Shah as amicus curie to the PIL and posted the matter for further proceedings on September 25.

Two wetlands in Kashmir Valley and one each in Jammu and Ladakh have been directed to be maintained by Supreme Court of India.

In this connection, a division bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta in April this year had directed J&K High court to treat an affidavit filed before it on behalf of Government of India by Dr. A. Duraisamy, Scientist ‘F’ and Member Secretary Central Wetland Regulatory Authority, as Public Interest Litigation.

“We request the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court to treat the affidavit as a suo motu public interest petition and, if necessary, appoint an amicus to assist the court so as to ensure that the Ramsar Convention sites within their jurisdiction are properly maintained,” the Apex Court had ordered.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are four wetlands in J&K which are under the convention in J&K and include Surinsar-Mansar Lakes of Jammu, Wular and, Hokersar in Kashmir Valley and Tsomoriri, a freshwater to brackish lake in Ladakh.

The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention’s member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.

The directions by the court followed perusal of a statement, showing huge expenditure to the extent of Rs.945.95 crores on the maintenance of the four wetlands as well as those in other states.

“It appears from a reading of the affidavit that not much improvement seems to have been made at least on the ground. That apart, the activities or the steps undertaken and the expenditure incurred in respect of those activities are extremely general in nature. We are also not sure whether the accounts have been audited or not,” the apex court had observed.

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