Srinagar: As weeds virtually engulf the Dal lake amid drought of money for its cleaning, the J&K High Court has directed diversion of Rs five crore out of the funds meant for ‘land acquisition’ to tide over the situation.
The direction by a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi followed submissions by amicus curie, senior advocate Zaffar A Shah and perusal of status report by acting vice-chairman of Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA), Shafat Noor Barlas.
Shah drew the attention of the court to unprecedented weed growth in the lake, which is attributed to free flow of untreated discharge, like sewage, urban and agriculture runoff.
He also pointed out that funds for de-weeding have not been released by the government, compounding the growth of weed which has spread virtually in whole of the lake, the flagship of Kashmir’s tourism.
On the other hand, the status report by acting V-C of LAWDA revealed that there is no European weed like Azolla, to which the court said, “We are not interested in finding out the nature of weed. However the fact remains that there is wild growth of weed throughout the lake and this has to be removed.”
There is indication in the report filed by the V-C, court observed, that a Detailed Project Report (DPR) is being sent to the government for according technical and financial sanction. At the point, Advocate General M I Qadri submitted that the same would mature within four days.
The V-C’s report further stated that funds under the head ‘Operations and Maintenance (O&M)’ were not available. However, a sum of more than Rs 83.00 crore is available under head ‘land acquisition’.
The court discussed the issue of diverting a sum of Rs 5 crore from the head ‘land acquisition’ to the Account Head ‘O&M’ in order to tide over the situation of clearing weeds from the lake and to ensure that the operation of STPs do not come to a standstill.
“There is no serious objection, and the only thing which has been mentioned is that as and when the funds are released under the O&M head, the same be readjusted by recouping, repaying the amount under the head ‘land acquisition’,” the court said.
Accordingly, the bench was persuaded to take the view that a sum of Rs 5 crore from ‘land acquisition’ be diverted to ‘O&M’ head, so as to start the de-weeding process and to ensure the functioning of STPs.
“This order shall not be subject to any other bureaucratic booby traps and the diversion of the funds under the signature of Shafat Noor Barlas would be sufficient, because any further delay would not be in the interest of maintaining the lake and its beauty,” the court said.
However, the court said, diversion of funds by its order should not be construed that no funds under O&M head are required to be released.
“The funds should be released as per the statement made by Advocate General, and the compliance report be filed before next date of hearing,” the court said and posted the case next week.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Sheikh Tahir Iqbal, then a law student, in July 2002 to save the Dal.
Meanwhile, the court kept “pending” the issue regarding reengaging of Irfan Yasin Shah as LADWA’s V-C.
The issue regarding continuation of Irfan Yasin was brought to the forefront by advocate Shah by referring to various court directions in this regard.
Advocate General stated that the proposal has already been initiated by the General Administration Department and the same is under consideration of the Chief Minister.
The Advocate General, who made the statement on the instructions of Feroze Ahmad, Additional Secretary to Government, GAD, also submitted that needful shall be done within four weeks.
At this point, advocate Shah said that no concession should be shown to state because there is no plausible explanation for the culpable delay caused in passing the order of extending tenure of Irfan Yasin as V-C of LAWDA.
“We do not express any opinion on the aforesaid issue and keep the same pending,” the court said.