Kashmir Pollution Control Committee Sans Kashmiri

IN April this year, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) notified the formation of the Jammu & Kashmir Pollution Control Committee (PCC) under the section 4 clause 4 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and Section 6 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981. As per the guidelines, 14 members were appointed as members of newly constituted committee but ironically not even a single member belongs to Kashmir valley.

For a few days, NGOs and activists criticized this undemocratic move of the Govt but that had no effect on the Government. Mr Suresh Chugh, the Chairperson of J&K Pollution Control Board (now called PCC) told me that he had no role in the constitution of J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC). The member secretary of PCC Mr B M Sharma also showed reluctance. I was told that the proposal went from the civil secretariat to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) but how can that be?

Through a gazette notification dated 25th March 2021, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) constituted a 14 member committee in J&K which includes a Chairperson and Member Secretary who are the senior Govt officers from India Forest Service.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been empowered to perform the functions of the State Pollution Control Board for all Union Territories (UTs) across India. This is mentioned in section 4 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 6 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

However, Section 4(4) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 6 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 provides that CPCB may delegate all or any of its powers and functions of a State Board in a UT under the said Acts to such person or body of persons as the Central Government may specify. The CPCB has thus delegated all its powers and functions as a State Board in respect of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir to a committee of 14 persons who include various administrative secretaries of J&K Govt , officials of health & medical education and municipal corporation and even NGO’s. Ironically all the 14 members are non-Kashmiris.

The Administrative Secretaries of Industries, Housing & Urban Development, Health & Medical Education & Transport Departments are official members of the Pollution Control Committee. The Additional Secretary of Forest and Environment  has also been included as a member of the pollution control committee. There is a post of a Chairman who will most probably be the Administrative Secretary Forest , Ecology and Environment. Pertinently in the UT of Delhi, Sanjeev Khirwar the Principal Secretary of Environment & Forests is the Chairman of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Other members of J&K Pollution Control Committee  include Commissioner JMC , Medical Superintendent GMC Jammu , Regional Officer Ministry of Environment ,Forests & Climate change Govt of India Jammu,  Dr Pankaj Chandan Director Nature , Wildlife and Climate Change an NGO based in Jammu  , Prof Anil Raina Department of Environmental Science Jammu University , Member Secretary Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) or his / her nominee , MD Small Industrial Corporation, Member Secretary J&K Pollution Control Committee.
If Commissioner Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) and Medical Superintendent Govt Medical College Jammu are part of the Pollution Control Committee, what was it that kept the Govt from including Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), health specialists from Govt Medical College (Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla) or SKIMS?

As a Kashmiri, I have no issues with the administrative secretaries of IFS officers as these officials represent the Govt of J&K but I have reservations when Commissioner Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) , Medical Superintendent Govt Medical College Jammu or a Professor from Jammu University are  made part of the group and their counterparts in Kashmir are bypassed?

It’s no new news that pollution in Srinagar has been increasing especially in water bodies like Dal Lake, Jhelum and Doodh Ganga. It only makes sense for Kashmir to have members from here, who understand local nuances.

Additionally, with the constitution of the J&K Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC) it seems that granting statehood to J&K is being delayed now as many state institutions of J&K set up in the past are being shut down one by one. Some of these institutions were shut down soon after the abrogation of article 370 like State Information Commission (SIC), State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), State Women’s Commission (SWC), and now institution like State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) has been closed down which has been replaced by J&K Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC). Now any bureaucrat can head the PCC , which otherwise in the past would be headed by only a senior Indian Forest Officer (IFS) not below the rank of a Principal  Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF).

The JKPCC is now directly controlled by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) New Delhi. It seems that the Govt of India has no plans for restoration of statehood to Jammu & Kashmir in near future. I have been criticizing PCBs (now PCC) style of working for a long time as PCB never took pollution in water bodies seriously. They act either after direction from National Green Tribunal (NGT) or J&K High Court. I wish the pollution board was proactive in its working in the past as it is now. Drinking water supplied from several sources like Doodh Ganga was not even tested by PCB on its own. For the last 2 years, the PCB (now PCC) has been on the tenterhooks and has produced some good reports on the orders of J&K High Court which treated pollution in Doodh Ganga as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) (Court on its own motion).

There must be a division of scientific work in the J & K Pollution Control Committee (PCC). We need well equipped labs in PCC as the same were not set up for the last 34 years since SPCB was constituted. The Srinagar water lab of PCC is not well equipped to do in-depth water analysis. Some minor physio-chemical parameters are seen while there is no facility to trace metals or polluting chemicals in the water samples. No scientific studies are carried out by the scientists associated with PCC in Kashmir. The action plan on wetlands was also prepared in the PCC office while very little field work was carried out. As the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) has been replaced by the Pollution Control Committee,one more institution of erstwhile State of J&K is being shut down.

There are several Govt and non-Government institutions in Kashmir which should have been part of the newly constituted J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC). By bypassing Govt institutions like Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED) Kashmir, Wullar Conservation & Management Authority (WUCMA), Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing Department, Kashmir University, Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LWDA), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has done a great disservice not only to the people of Kashmir but to Kashmir’s fragile environment as well. Kashmir based NGOs like Nigeen Lake Conservation Organization (NLCO) , Environmental Policy Group (EPG), Peoples Environment Council (PEC) should have been taken on board by the Government as they have been playing a great role for conservation of environment and ecology in Kashmir.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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