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NGT issues important directions for management of the Wetlands

The NGT on 27th August, 2020 issued important directions for management of the Wetlands in the Country. The directions were passed in a matter regarding dumping of waste and encroachment of Hokersar Wetland, Wular Lake and Kreentchoo-Chandhara Wetland in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.

The Original Application titled Raja MuzaffarBhatvs.State of Jammu & Kashmir &Ors. was filed before the Tribunal by a local resident of Kashmir, Journalist and environmental/RTI activist highlighting the unscientiflc dredging, rampant illegal encroachments and dumping of municipal solid waste on the wetlands of Jammu and Kashmir, namely-Hokersar,Wular Lake and Kreentchoo-Chandhara. These activities were in clear violation of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to which India is a signatory.

 The Bench of the NGT comprised of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson, Justice S.P.WangadiJudicial Member and Nagin Nanda Expert Member considered the Report of the Joint Committee of Jammu & Kashmir Pollution Control Board,Department of Wildlife Protection and Deputy Commissioners of Budgam, Srinagar and Bandipora. The Joint Committee also filed a Progress Report before the NGT informing the Tribunal about the progress achieved with respect to conservation measures taken in Hokersar Wetland Conservation Reserve, Wular Lake and Kreentchoo-Chandhara wetland Conservation Reserve. The Committee submitted that Eviction of encroachers has been initiated and cases registered against them, construction of drainage channel is taking place across Hokersar Wetland,desilting is taking place and additional measures are being adopted for collecting solid waste within the wetlands. The Applicant filed his response and suggestions to the Reports of the Joint Committee. The Applicant refuted the claims the Joint Committee. The Applicant stated that the Waste Management should not be a one or two day show for purpose of taking photographs but it should be a continuous process. It was suggested by the Applicant that there should be Information Education and Communication (IEC) activities around Hokersar invoking NGOs and panchayats and under the Swachh Bharat Mission with Solid Liquid Resource Management component. In Hokersar area, the Applicant submitted that hardly any Information Education and Communicationor waste management workhas been done by Govt. The Applicant suggested that in collaboration with Rural Sanitation Department the Wildlife Conservation Department could undertake solid waste management around Hokersar wetland and adjoining villages Soibugh, Sharifabad and Hajibagh. He further suggested that there are enough funds available under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin(SBM Gramin) for such activities but unfortunately the money is not being utilized as no DPRs have been prepared by Govt. nor havebeen consultant agencies hired by Rural Development Department for this work. Applicant agreed that dredging is being done for removing silt from Hokersar but this is not a permanent solution for Waste and its Management. The Wildlife Dept. must get associated with Rural Sanitation for this purpose. Similar submissions were made by the Applicant with respect to Wullar and Kreentchoo-Chandhara.

 

After herring the parties the NGT directed “Let further action be taken by the joint Committee headed by the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir. The above suggestions be duly considered and acted upon, to the extent found viable.”

The bench further observed that there was discussion in the media about inadequacy of monitoring of action for restoration of lakes, wetlands and ponds which is certainly necessary for strengthening the rule of law and protection of public health and environment3. Several directions have been issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in M.K. Balakrishnan and Ors. v. UOI &Ors Highlighting the importance of Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 the Bench mentioned in it’s Order that “Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 contain elaborate provisions for protection of Wetlands and National and State Wetland Authorities have been set up. However, the fact remain that the wetlands are facing serious challenge of conservation as shown by the present case and other cases which are the Tribunal dealing with from time to time”. The NGT directed that the report received from the Joint Committee, showing the extent of challenges faced by the Wetlands in question, may also be forwarded to the Secretary, MoEF&CC and the CPCB as a feedback for further planning and action on the pattern of the problems depicted inthe report. The Bench issued important directions that “the National Wetlands Committee may compiledata of status of compliance of environmental norms in respect of all significant wetlands in the country to ensure remedial action. The StatePCBs/PCCs and State/UT Wetland Authorities in India may give the status of management of wetlands in their respective States to the Secretary, MoEF&CC within three months. On that basis a jointCommittee of the Secretary and Chairman CPCB may give a consolidated report to this Tribunal before the next date”

The matter is now listed for 21stJanuary ,2021.

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