SRINAGAR: Disappointed over the casual approach adopted in preservation and protection of wetlands and not complying the environmental norms as prescribed by the Supreme Court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed for preparing an action plan in respect of each of the wetland within a month along with budgetary support and identifying accountable persons.On July 16, 2021, STATE TIMES published a news regarding the weary conditions of one of the famous wetland Hokarsar, which is currently counting its last breaths.Now, National Green Tribunal has grilled the Jammu and Kashmir administration over the bad condition of wetlands.It is well known, for past several years, the wetlands in the region have been facing the problems of encroachment, pollution and siltation.And it is very unfortunate that no remarkable progress was made for their conservation despite mounting public concerns, claims of government action and judicial intervention.NGT also showed severe concern that Jammu and Kashmir administration has not given much importance to Supreme Court’s order regarding conservation of wetlands.The High court of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh in August 2017 had directed government to demarcate and initiate steps for protecting them, but demarcation was going on very slowly.The NGT directed that the plan may include remedial action against weed infestation, sewage discharges, solid waste disposal, encroachments etc.“This may be overseen by the Chief Secretary, J&K in view of significance of the matter and continued violation of orders of the Supreme Court, noted earlier”, read the order.Jammu and Kashmir has many wetlands of national and international recognition.These water-bodies are a critical source of livelihood for many and provide job opportunities to a large population in form of fishing, farming, tourism etc. Moreover, most of the wetlands in the region fall under Central Asian Flyway Zone and visited by lakhs of migratory and endangered birds during their annual migration. These wetlands areas also provide safe refuge to native vegetation and wild animals.The National Wetlands Atlas (NWA) had listed 3,651 wetlands covering 3,91,501 hacters in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Of the total wetlands, 2,240 have area less than 2.25 ha.The region has four wetlands Surinsar-Mansar, Hokersar, Wular and Tsomoriri (now in Ladakh) of International importance identified under Ramsar convention.Tribunal directed the Chief Secretary of J&K to remain present in-person on the next date, by video conferencing, with compliance status as on 31.10.2021.According to reports, more than 50 percent of water bodies in Srinagar and its suburbs were lost over a century. Similarly, the marshy lands of the Hokersar wetland had declined from 16.3 square kilometres (sq km) in 1969 to 5.62 sq km in 2008 and the wetland, too, had shrunk from 18.75 in 1969 to 13 sq km in 2008.Likewise, the Wular Lake area had seen a reduction of around 45 % from 157.74 to 86.71 sq km during 1911 to 2007.According to another report, the area of Narkara wetland had shrunk to 261 hectare in 2010 from 342 hectare in 1971 and the Govt agencies had no revenue records of the water body.It is surprising to see that despite having so many important wetlands, the jammu and Kashmir for years lacked a specific department or agency competent enough to work for the cause of the wetlands.
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