SRINAGAR: The state government has no idea about the damage to water bodies and noise pollution caused by artillery firing at Tosmaidan by the Indian army.
In response to an RTI application, the government has revealed that it doesn’t have records of any tests conducted on waters of the three streams flowing throw the meadow-turned-firing range, and of the sound distractions caused during shelling.
The RTI, jointly submitted by Tosmaidan Bachao Front (TBF) and J&K RTI Movement, had asked the government to “advise if any water testing was done on Nallah Sukhnag, Suresh Nallah, and Nallah Ferozpur” and to provide a “report copy of the decibel readings taken during artillery practice in Tosmaidan.” To both the queries, the government has said “records (are) not available in this department.”
Tosmaidan, a high-altitude meadow in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, was leased out by the state government to the Indian army in 1964, allowing its use as a firing range by the latter. Each summer ever since, the army has been practicing firing of artillery at the picturesque meadow.
Over the years, the shelling has indirectly killed 63 civilians and injured almost as many. But TBF, the amalgam spearheading the agitation for relocation of the firing range, claims that sound of the explosions has impaired the hearing of many civilians and that the streams have become polluted too.
In fact, at a roundtable conference organised by civil society group Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), TBF went on to say that the streams may be carrying cancer-causing radioactive substances that, it suspected, were contained by the explosives. Subsequently, it has been asking for a research to confirm or deny the presence of radioactive substances in the streams.
“Nallah Sukhnag, Suresh Nallah, and Nallah Ferozpur are the main water source to three districts of Srinagar, Budgam, and Baramulla. It is extremely shocking that no water testing has been conducted so far. It has put human lives in extreme danger,” chief patron of TBF Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool said in a statement on Tuesday.
TBF and J&K RTI Movement have reiterated the demand for the research.
Meanwhile, the government has refused to provide details about the meetings held by the Chief Secretary-led committee for identifying the alternative sites for relocating the firing range. Sharing the information while the committee is yet to complete its task “could affect security of the state,” the government has said in its response.
“We will challenge it (denial of information) before the first appellate authority,” Rasool, who is chairman of the J&K RTI Movement, also, said.