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Remove Jhelum Encroachments To Avoid 2014-Like Floods: HC

Seeks Inquiry Report From DC Srinagar On Lasjan embankment Collapse in 8 Days

Srinagar—The High Court has directed authorities to remove all encroachments from canals, leading to Jhelum, the aquatic lifeline of Kashmir, to avoid any further devastative floods like 2014.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Ali Mohammad also directed Deputy Commissioner Srinagar to submit a copy of the inquiry into collapsing of Jhelum embankment at Lasjan in outskirts of Srinagar within a week or otherwise appear personally before it March 8.

On January 31, the court had directed Flood Control Department to repair the embankment and asked the deputy commissioner to file the copy of his enquiry into the matter to ascertain the exact cause of the collapse of the bank at Lasjan, near the residence of minister for Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Javaid Mustafa Mir.

“The report was directed to be submitted which has not been done,” the court observed. However senior additional advocate general B A Dar submitted that the Government has directed the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar to conduct the enquiry and to submit the report within fifteen days.

“In view of this position, the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar shall file the requisite report within eight days, in default to remain personally present,” the court said.

The division bench also took on record Water Testing Report, giving insight regarding cause of the collapse. In addition thereto, Amicus Curiae stated that he has personally visited the spot and had gathered some information. Now he has prepared the report which he will file by or before next date of hearing.

“The PIL owes its origin for removal of encroachment of Padshahi Khul passing through Gulab Bagh, Rangpora, Daugerpora and Malbagh. In the order dated 14 August 2014, reference to the affidavit as was filed by the respondent was taken note of, in particular reference to the original width of the canal ranging from 17 feet to 27 feet which by afflux of time has squeezed to the mere width of 3 feet to 5 feet. Shrinking of the width of the canal recorded on 24 November 2014 suggesting that as pre record, 522 canals are in existence and functional,” the court said.

In isolated cases, the court said, the canals passing through suburbs of Srinagar City and main towns have been encroached upon since last few decades because of urbanization. “Timely action has not been taken for removal of encroachment. Chief Engineer and other statutory authorities of the respondent department were directed to take necessary steps for removal of encroachment and to file compliance report. Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, was to provide necessary assistance to the Chief Engineer,” the court said.

In the order, the court said, it had also been noticed that river Jhelum is the main aquatic life line in the Kashmir Valley. “It was observed that it is the duty of the Chief Engineer and other statutory authorities to ensure removal of all encroachments from the banks of river Jhelum along its entire course. “

On 24 February 2015, the court said, it was directed that the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, with the active assistance of Chief Engineer, I&FC, Kashmir, and concerned Deputy Commissioners and SSPs to initiate a drive for removing all the encroachments from the banks of river Jhelum and the original width of the river Jhelum be also restored by removing all encroachments whatever existed there.

“In the order on 29 March, 2017, while taking note of the report filed by the respondent Irrigation & Flood Control Department, undertaking to remove all sorts of encroachments and taking note of the dredging being carried out so as to retrieve encroached water bodies, the concerned

Executive Engineers were to get the process of demarcation expedited so as to remove all encroachments,” the court said, underling that essence and object of the PIL was in the process of being achieved. “A direction was issued for removing of encroachments from all the canals existing in the Kashmir Province. Deputy Commissioners of the concerned Districts were to monitor and to ensure removal of encroachment through concerned authorities. There has been some progress but latest status has not been filed. The Deputy Commissioners in their respective districts shall mobilize all concerned, in particular Irrigation and Flood Control Department in coordination with concerned Chief Engineer for ensuring complete removal of encroachment from the canals in their respective districts.”

To avoid any further devastative floods like that of 2014, all canals which, in fact, are tributaries leading to rival Jhelum are required to be restored to their original position by removing all encroachments and the river Jhelum is also required to be restored to its original position, the court said.

“By or before next date, all the Deputy Commissioners shall ensure filing of latest status regarding removal of encroachment from the canals existing in their respective jurisdictions. The present progress of dredging and removal of encroachment from the banks of rival Jhelum shall also be

Reported,” the court said and posted the PIL for further consideration on March 8.

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