HC’s Poser To WUCMA: When Will Wular Become Encroachment Free?

Wular Lake – File Photo

Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on Friday directed the government to file a report clearly showing the sanctioned strength of the staff of the Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA).

In an order, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer, the order asked Additional Advocate General (AAG), B A Dar to file a report showing the number of persons employed by WUCMA to show that the authority is really interested in taking effective steps for conservation and preservation of the Wular lake.

The court also directed the Director, WUCMA to come clean with the time schedule to remove encroachments from the Wular Lake.

Amicus Curiae in the matter- Nadeem Qadri told Kashmir Observer that the order is a Landmark and will make every party responsible for conservation of the lake accountable.

“The court will closely monitor the case now,” he told Kashmir Observer.

The court passed this direction after recording on previous hearing that 640 kanals of Wular Lake have been encroached.

This apart, it was recorded that the Union Government has pumped in Rs 200 crores for conservation and management of the Wular lake and, therefore, the respondents were asked to inform the court the manner in which it proposes to spend the said amount for the conservation and management of the lake.

In response to the court’s directives, an action taken report was filed by the Chief Executive Director, Wular Conservation and Management Authority.

The report submitted before court indicated that the Wular Lake has been fully demarcated with geo-tagged and concrete boundary pillars have been fixed all over the periphery of the Lake.

It further stated that the net area of the Wular Lake at present is 130 Square Kilometres and that 642 Kanals 01 Marla of land (around 0.3 sqkm) was encroached upon.

“Out of the said encroached land about 261 kanals 10 marlas have been retrieved and that the authority is in the process of retrieving the balance of 380 kanals 11 marlas (0.19 sqkm),” the report said.

The Court of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul while taking the compliance report on record pointed out that the Director (WUCMA) has not specified as to the time frame within which the remaining encroachments shall be removed.

“In that view of the matter, we direct the authority to come clean with the time schedule within which the remaining encroachments shall be removed and the lake would be made encroachment free,” the court directed.

In regard to Rs 200 crores, which have been provided for the conservation and management of the Wular Lake, the report states that according to the Wular Action Plan, about 124.825 crores have already been spent on survey & demarcation, catchment area treatment, water management, biodiversity conservation, ecotourism development and institutional development.

Amicus Curiae in the matter- Nadeem Qadri disputed the above action and submitted that under certain heads nothing has been done by the respondents so far, as such, there is no question of spending any money under these heads.

He further submitted that there are about 33 villages around the said lake and that the authority has not taken any steps to ensure that no garbage from all the said villages is dumped into the lake area.

He also stated that despite a huge amount of Rs 200 crores having been provided, the authority has not engaged full time officials/ officers for the conservation and preservation of the lake.

The court while taking the submissions of the counsel on record permitted him to file his objections/ response to the aforesaid action taken report and “put forth his suggestions separately for the improvement of the lake,” court directed.

The court will again hear the matter on 10 November, 2021.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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