HC seeks ‘comprehensive plan’ about spending on Wullar

Srinagar: With more than Rs 38 crores at the disposal of Wullar Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) this fiscal, the J&K High Court on Tuesday directed it to file a ‘comprehensive plan’ on how they would be able to achieve the results which are contemplated under the ‘Save Wullar lake’ programme.
The direction was passed by a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice M M Kumar so that court may examine the utilization of funds in its proper direction.
“Public money has to be utilized for the purpose for which it is meant,” the court said and asked the WUCMA to file the report within two weeks.
The direction was passed by the bench, which also comprised Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, after getting “unsatisfactory” response to various queries raised by it to the officers of WUCMA present in the court on how the amount spend would be able to achieve the results which are contemplated under the plan of save the water body, which is one of Asia’s largest fresh water lakes.
While the officers including Chief Executive Director and Coordinator WUCMA said that it will stop the huge amount of silt from entering the Wullar from Jhelum at three critical points—Naz-Nallah (in village Sadurkote), Baniyar and Kachi Karanganch.
In response to another question whether such a process would be temporary or it will achieve some enduring results, the officers, as observed by the court, were not clear.
“No satisfactory answer is available. Therefore we grant time to respondents (WUCMA) to file a comprehensive plan so that we may examine the utilization of funds in its proper direction,” the bench said.
Amicus curie and senior Advocate Z A Shah said that plan must fulfill the objective which is sought to be achieved.
“(WUCMA) may say that according to the plan, it is spending here and there. I think what it needs to say in the (comprehensive report) is that even after spending the money, the problem which we are trying to address whether that will repeat in itself. It may be easy for authorities to say this much (money) for de-silting, this much for others, etc.”
In another direction, the court directed government to take into account suggestion by the amicus curie Z A Shah that there should be one unified plan to utilize and beautify all the water bodies besides addressing other issues like de-silting.
“The Central government would be required to assist the state authorities so that the funds are properly utilized. The suggestion shall be taken into account once the report (about comprehensive plan) is filed.”
Earlier in his submissions, Shah said that time has come when there should be a comprehensive integrated water plan related to lakes, rivers, nallahs and shrinking glaciers of Kashmir.
Elucidating, he said, all these water bodies are interconnected in one way or the other and all other issues like water quality, beautification, de-silting etc have to be addressed under a comprehensive manner.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation—Kashmir Environment Protection Vs State of J&K and others, seeking to safeguard the Wullar.
Meanwhile, the court also took on record the compliance report filed by Director Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance Government of India.
In the compliance report, the Director has stated Rs 30 crore has been released to J&K government for conservation of the Wullar.
Two other status reports in compliance to the directions by the court were also filed by Chief Executive Director WUCMA, giving details of expenditure made by the end of March 2014.
Out of Rs 30 crores for 2013-14, the Director said, the WUCMA utilized Rs 21.4703 crores and balance of amount of Rs 8.5297 crores has been revalidated for the current financial year.