Whose baby is Achan? SMC, ERA pass the buck, invoke court’s wrath

Srinagar: Amid jurisdictional conflict between Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and J&K Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) over the Achan landfill site, the J&K High Court has warned authorities of both departments of action, which may include a five-year jail and fine for Rs one lakh, if they continue to observe rules in breach.
“There is a dispute between SMC and ERA as to whether a part of landfill site has to be looked after by ERA or a part of it still requires to be looked after by (SMC),” a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar observed after perusal of two status reports filed by the ERA and the SMC in compliance of previous directions by the court.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed in 2006 by Farah Khan, then a law student, seeking implementation of the provisions of Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 and other Rules, for effective garbage disposal in Srinagar city.
Advocate F A Mir, counsel for SMC, argued that the job of the Corporation was to collect solid waste as per the rules known as Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 and Schedule 1&2. How solid waste is to be treated by putting it in landfill site is the job of ERA, Mir claimed.
On the other hand, ERA’s counsel, advocate Zubair Ahmad stated that a part of landfill site has to be looked after by SMC.
Amid this blame game, Advocate General M I Qadri, who was present in the court, intervened and stated that he would solve the jurisdictional conflict.
At the same time, advocates Z A Qureshi and Faisal Qadri, counsel for the petitioners, brought to the notice of the bench its October 16, 2012 order, where the court had mentioned the provisions of Section 15 of the Environmental Protection Act of 1986.
As per it, whosoever fails to comply with or contravenes any of the provisions of 1986 Act or the Rules of 2000, would be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to rupees one lakh, or with both.
In the October 16, 2012 order, the court had observed that the provision has not been invoked in the hope and trust that the authorities would comply with the provisions of the Act and the Rules in letter and spirit.
“However, we are constrained to observe that there is no complete compliance of the Rules of 2000 and Schedule attached to those Rules. It has been stated in the (October 16) order that the Rules are comprehensive and detailed which cover every step for the various authorities to follow,” the division bench said.
“It appears that no heed has been paid to the order, and we wish to remind the authorities of ERA as well as SMC that if necessity arises, we will not refrain from passing any order under Section 15 of the Act and would revive the notice already issued,” the court said, asking the Advocate General to resolve the issue between both ERA and SMC.
“Let both the agencies file status reports clearly showing that the Rules of 2000 have been complied with in letter and spirit as has already been directed in various orders of this court,” the bench said and posted the case for further consideration on July 7.
Achan is the only garbage dumping site for Srinagar City. Unscientific disposal of solid wastage and non-treatment of leachate generated at the site remained in news for several months last year.
Apart from accounting to the pollution of the underground water in the area, the leachate has been a source of nuisance in the entire area as well as its neighbourhood.
In fact during the last summer, the stink of the leachate engulfed almost entire Old City, leaving the entire populace fuming.
Following a rap by the High Court, the authorities of ERA took some measures to control the nuisance by installing leachate treatment plants at the site.