SRINAGAR: The Environmental Protection Group (EPG) has filed a fresh Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Jammu and Kashmir High court to save Wular Lake, the largest fresh water lake in Asia.
Advocate Shafqat Nazir, one of the core group members of EPG, filed the PIL seeking directions against the authorities who ruined the Lake in the name of dredging. He stated that it was ironical on part of the government that a company was given this project who had already failed in dredging of Jehlum River.
“After September 2014 floods, the government provided a contract to the company M/s REACH Dredging Limited to carry out dredging process of river Jehlum. But the company restored the dredging at the spots where the extraction of sand was possible leaving behind the areas where dredging was required to be done in terms of assessment and analysis made by competent authorities. Neither the company nor the state authorities have the sediment data of Jhelum. Therefore the process was based on extraneous considerations,” the PIL reads.
“In wake of application of unscientific methods which weakened the embankments of the Jhelum and led to the wastage of Rs 50 crore, causing huge loss to the state exchequer. The state government subsequently stopped the dredging of the Jehlum,” the PIL states.
Despite of incursion of loss in crores of rupees and instead of imposing penalties, the state has allotted the contract of dredging of Wullar Lake to the same company even as the tendering process was done in a clandestine manner.
The PIL further states that the tenders were advertised during 2016 unrest which couldn’t get wide publicity because of the restrictions on internet.
The advertised cost of the work as reflected in the tender notice is Rs 400 crore, out of which Rs 250 crore are to be adjusted out of felling of willow and other tree species of the Wullar Lake.
“The tendering process seems to be initiated with the design to favour a particular company and it was done in well said manner,” said advocate Shafkat.
“No environment impact assessment or ecological assessment of the lake has been done for approving felling of willow trees which are habitat to thousands of birds,” he said.
The PIL reads that following the tendering process, the bid of REACH Dredging Company Limited was accepted. The company is alleged to have a joint venture with M/s Hubbi-hongyan engineering Company Limited, a Chinese company.
The two companies are having a joint venture and REACH is 95 percent stake-holder in the joint venture.
The PIL also stated that the Inland Water Ways Authority of India has earlier allotted the contract of River Luna to M/s REACH but the contract was terminated due to the misadventures of the company.