Asks J&K HC to treat affidavit by GoI on Ramsar Convention sites as suo motu PIL
SRINAGAR: Two wetlands in Kashmir Valley and one each in Jammu and Ladakh have been directed to be maintained by Supreme Court of India.
In this connection, a division bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta directed J&K High court to treat an affidavit filed before it on behalf of Government of India by Dr A Duraisamy, Scientist ‘F’ and Member Secretary Central Wetland Regulatory Authority, as Public Interest Litigation. Besides J&K, the apex court also asked its registry to send the copy of affidavit to high courts of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab and Haryana, Rajasthan, Madras, Tripura, Allahabad and Calcutta.
“We request the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court to treat the affidavit as a suo motu public interest petition and, if necessary, appoint an amicus to assist the court so as to ensure that the Ramsar Convention sites within their jurisdiction are properly maintained,” the Apex Court ordered.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are four wetlands in J&K which are under the convention in J&K and include Surinsar-Mansar Lakes of Jammu, Wular and, Hokersar in Kashmir Valley and Tsomoriri, a freshwater to brackish lake in Ladakh.
The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention’s member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.
The directions by the court followed perusal of a statement, showing huge expenditure to the extent of Rs.945.95 crores on the maintenance of the four wetlands as well as those in other states.
“It appears from a reading of the affidavit that not much improvement seems to have been made at least on the ground. That apart, the activities or the steps undertaken and the expenditure incurred in respect of those activities are extremely general in nature. We are also not sure whether the accounts have been audited or not,” the bench observed.
Counsel for Government of India said that he will ascertain whether the accounts of the amounts that have been disbursed to the State Governments have been audited and file an affidavit.
The court asked the counsel for the petitioner that insofar as the Ramsar Convention sites are concerned, they are matters of international heritage and might be more appropriate if the concerned High Courts monitor the management of these sites at least till there is some visible improvement. The counsel responded by saying he has no objection.