Orders quality test of water flowing in streams, hopes cabinet decision on Master Plan in 2 weeks
SRINAGAR: The J&K High Court on Tuesday sought a report within two weeks from State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) on whether polythene and plastic continues to be used despite a ban ordered by it in Gulmarg, the ecologically fragile world famous tourist-resort in north Kashmir.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey also expressed hope that state cabinet will take a call on Master Plan for the Gulmarg within two weeks.
“This court has already banned the use of plastic and polythene in Gulmarg. Report shall be filed by SPCB and GDA whether any plastic are being used and more importantly discarded in Gulmarg area,” the court said and also directed both the authorities to “clearly” indicate the manner of garbage and waste disposal in the status report to be filed within two weeks.
The direction by the court followed its perusal of pictures, submitted before it by advocate Tawheed Ahmad, about the dumping of garbage in the forest.
“See these photographs. You are dumping garbage in forests! This is most disgusting,” the bench retorted to counsel representing state after he submitted that garbage is taken to Achan dumping site in Srinagar.
“These are photographs of 2014,” the state counsel submitted following which the court asked advocate Tawheed about the time when these pictures were taken. Tawheed, a local resident, responded by saying that while they have been clicked few years back but situation continues to be same. “Even unauthorized constructions are going on in Gulmarg,” he said. “Be fair and make honest statement,” the court said amid claims by the state counsel that “submission are being made in thin air.”
Subsequently, the court asked advocate Tawheed to visit Gulmarg and take pictures whether any “encroachment, unauthorized contraction or dumping of garbage takes place.”
The court also directed SPCB to file a report, indicating the status of Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) in all hotels in Gulmarg. The report, the court said shall also indicate whether there is any plan for the government to set up sewerage system in Gulmarg. “Status report shall also indicate quality of water in streams which are flowing in Gulmarg,” the court said. It also asked counsel for state to indicate entire extent of the local area of GDA.
The court also directed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) GDA and member secretary SPCB to remain presently personally on June 2, the next date of hearing in the PIL, “to explain the ground realities.”
The court also directed the counsel appearing for Forest Department to file an affidavit, indicating whether or not the entire forest area, falling within the limits of GDA, has been “demarcated and secured.”
“He shall also clearly indicate whether there is any part of forest which is encroached and whether there is any unauthorized felling of trees taking place in Gulmarg,” the court said and directed filing of the affidavit within 2 weeks.
Regarding the Master Plan for Gulmarg, the court observed that the same has been under consideration since 1 May 2013 when it had directed government to prepare and finalize it within three months.
“Over four years have gone by but the master plan is still not in place,” the court said.
On 19 March this year, the court said, the Chief Secretary was directed to file an affidavit, giving the status of the master plan.
“The affidavit has been filed, stating therein that the master plan will be placed before next cabinet meeting. Thereafter the master plan will be adopted. We hope that next cabinet meeting takes places within two weeks from today,” the court said.
Lastly, the court directed judges committee comprising of M. Y. Wani, Registrar Judicial and Farooq Ahmad Bhat, Joint Registrar Judicial, to visit the Gulmarg and submit its report well before the next date of hearing.
The panel has been constituted by the court among others to decide applications by people submitted before CEO GDA for seeking permission for affecting renovations or repairs at Gulmarg.
The PIL was filed in 2012 by one Mohammad Rafiq Zargar, seeking directions for protection of fragile environment of Gulmarg.