Says shrinkage has taken place inside lake due to habitations, seeks fresh maps by Monday
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday disagreed with Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) over its claim that Dal Lake has not shrunken in last more than a century.
While the LAWDA based its claims on maps pertaining to 1911, 1924 and current ones, a division bench of the court headed by Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed said that interpretation of authorities might be wrong.
“You (LAWDA officials present in court) have not given perfect data as only outer boundary has been drawn (on maps shown to the court) while as shrinkage has taken place inside the lake due to habitations which these maps do not show,” said the division bench after minutely going through the maps, which as per LAWDA officials show water expanse of the lake during 1911, 1924 as well as contemporarily.
“You are giving wrong information. You have given only paperwork. You were asked to go on spot and provide ground reality. It is totally wrong. Why you people hide the truth?” the bench, also comprising Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey said, underling that Srinagar exists because of the Dal Lake.
“If it (lake) is not there, there won’t be Srinagar. Do not hoodwink the people. Admit that the lake has shrunk due to encroachments and pollutants,” the court said.
During the proceeding of the case—a Public Interest Litigation filed in 2002 for conservation and preservation of the waterbody—counsel representing LAWDA submitted that there is some proprietary land inside the lake but the court rejected the claim with the observation that entire area of lake was water in 1911 and has been turned into land mass. “How can you own water?” the court said, and emphasised on proper action by the authorities.
“We want action. You people admit your lacunae. I am outsider, I feel very pity. You are insiders, you should also feel it,” said the chief justice.
The court’s direction also followed submissions by amicus curie in the PIL and senior advocate Z A Shah that the fresh maps, to be furnished by the LAWDA, should clearly show water surface and land area of the Dal Lake, a flagship of Kashmir’s tourism.
The court also directed LAWDA as well as State Pollution Control Board to submit report regarding functioning of the Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs).
In this regard, the court said that LAWDA and SPCB shall carry joint exercise and submit the report separately.
“LAWDA and SPCB shall produce annual chart of both Dal and Nigeen lakes as regards chemical analysis of water taken by the authorities from 1997,” the court said.
It also directed LAWDA to indicate on what basis de-weeding in the lake takes place and also inform it about the relocation of Dal dwellers as also houseboats by Monday.
Besides, the court also directed the monitoring committee, headed by Chief Secretary, to meet once in two months to “advance the object for which it has been constituted—to save Dal and restore its pristine glory.”
The court took on record a report filed by its two vigilance commissioners— Mohammad Shafi Khan (retired session judge) and Abdul Hamid Bhat (former SSP). The report reveals that sewage into Dal was on higher range while encroachments were going on large scale.