Srinagar- The government has submitted an action taken report (ACR) before the High Court of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh highlighting a number of measures taken for the conservation and preservation of Wular lake— one of the largest freshwater lakes in South Asia.
The ATR was submitted by the Chief Executive Director Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA), T Rabi Kumar before the High Court of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh.
On August 2, the court directed the government to file an Action Taken Report (ATR) regarding detailed status about utilisation of funds, encroachment status of Wular lake, staff strength of authority and latest position of lake conservation manners taken by said Authority to conserve the lake.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), filed by Kashmir Environmental Protection, a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Rajesh Sekhri observed that sufficient funds were being provided by the Centre for the conservation and preservation of the lake.
In response to the submission, the government submitted the latest progress with regards to encroachment status and lake conservation and management action programme.
The government submitted that the demarcation work was started with the establishment of WUCMA in the year 2012 and the whole exercise was completed by 2016 Wular lake is fully demarcated with concrete boundary pillars all along its periphery.
They said that the boundary line is digitized with each boundary pillar duly geo referenced.
“The net area of Wular Lake at present is 130 square kilometer with an encroachment of 380 Kanals and 11 Marlas,” the government said, adding that “the area under encroachment is 0.001%. Eviction of 20 Kanals and 11 Marlas have been achieved and eviction of balance encroachment is going on,”
The government further submitted before the court that all efforts are made to retrieve the balance encroachments from Lake in which officials of Revenue, Forest & WUCMA departments are working with synergy to remove encroachments from the lake.
They ensured that the encroachments under plantations and cultivations which form the “major chunk” of encroachments shall be cleared by the end of this financial year.
They said that the water holding capacity through the Wular Action Plan of Lake is likely to be completed in 2022–23 at a cost of Rs. 200 Crore.
Regarding the de-siltation operation, the government said that the major work under the Wular Action Plan under execution was to restore the critically silted up areas of the lake.
According to them, an area of 3.35 Sqkm was targeted for restoration, which was achieved 100 percent by March 2022.
They said that the present dredging operations were carried through modern technology by Cutter Suction Dredger which has enabled efficient fast and quality dredging from the lake.
“…by March, 2022 a cumulative area of 4 35 sqkm of critically silted up area of Lake has been restored to its original position,” the government said.
To prevent soil erosion and improve ground water recharge, afforestation activities and water conservation measures have been carried out in the immediate catchment of the lake.
“So far 16.76 lakh plants have been planted in Madhumati and Erin catchments to rehabilitate the degraded catchment,” the government said in its ATR.
Regarding biodiversity conservation, the government said, focus has been given to conservation of wildlife within and outside the lake.
“Various measures have been undertaken such as patrolling on boats for the prevention of poaching. Waterbird census is being regularly conducted to monitor the abundance of the migratory bird population in the Lake,” the government said.
It further added that an eco- friendly walkway is being constructed to realise the ecotourism potential of the lake. The walkway has a length of 2.5 Km which shall be completed in two years.
The government said WUCMA has organised many awareness programmes to involve stakeholders and local people in Wular conservation.
“The vision of WUCMA is the Conservation and sustainable development of Wular lake which is aimed at the restoration of Wular for ecological and economic security of the people dependent upon the lake resources for their livelihood,” the response submitted by the government reads.
They further said that the dumping sites of Bandipora and Sopore towns have been shut down by WUCMA to prevent discharge of waste into the lake as these dumping sites were located close to Wular lake.
“…further, to manage waste generated by villages surrounding Wular, WUCMA has launched a pilot project for Zurimanz village in order to develop sustainable solutions for scientific waste management of these rural areas,” the government said.
In response, the government said WUCMA has Engineering and Forest staff working at various levels with a total strength of 42 at present.
The government submitted that the WUCMA has been constantly endeavouring to implement the Wular eco-restoration plan in the most scientific and rational basis and it has achieved satisfactory results so far.
It may be noted, the court directed Advocate Nadeem Qadri, who assists the court as amicus curiae in the PIL to visit the lake and bring on record his inspection report along with suggestions that he proposes to make for the development of Wular Lake.
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