Srinagar: A month after the government’s ministerial panel okayed Indo-Sino companies to dredge Wular Lake, the multi-crore project has hit a roadblock as “a few members” of the panel have expressed reservations over the panel’s recommendations, official sources told Kashmir Reader.
Now the contract to be signed between the government and the private companies has been put on hold. This means that the dredging work, which was to be completed within two years, will be delayed.
The government panel comprised Forest Minister Lal Singh, Education Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari, Minister for Social Welfare, ARI & Trainings and Science & Technology, Sajjad Gani Lone, Minister for Youth Services and Sports Imran Raza Ansari, Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, Minster for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Sham Lal Choudhary, and Minister for Cooperative and Ladakh Affairs, Cheering Dorjey. The panel of these ministers approved the companies during a meeting in Srinagar in October.
Official sources said that ‘a few minsters’ have objected over the panel’s recommendations to contract the Rs 376-crore project in a joint venture to the companies. The ‘few ministers’ have expressed disagreements over the final decision of the panel.
“The government was about to issue formal orders for the dredging project. But in the meantime, a few minsters objected to recommendations of the panel and put brakes on the project. It would cause further delay to the project,” a source said.
The Wular Conservation & Management Authority (WUCMA), which is maintaining the lake, had proposed China-based Hubei Hongyan Engineering Company Limited and Kolkata-based Reach Dredging Limited to the panel. Since then, all the activities that WUCMA had initiated for the restoration of the dying lake were stopped by officials as they awaited formal approval from the government for the new project.
Coordinator of WUCMA, Irfan Rasool, said that the authority consolidated all the minor projects into this new project and that’s why currently no activity was going on inside the lake.
“Till the Durbar was here (in Srinagar), the project witnessed quick developments and it was almost near completion, but since it moved to Jammu, activities related to this have slowed down. We hope that the decision (of project approval) will come soon,” Rasool said.
The two companies in a joint venture had put a bid of Rs 376 crore for dredging the lake. The companies were to be paid Rs 201 crore for the willow trees they would extract from the lake. According to Irfan, the project is supposed to be completed within two years.
With a maximum length of 16 km and breadth of 7.6 km, the Wular Lake has shrunk to nearly half its size in the past few decades. Continuous encroachment, siltation and wide-spread pollution are the main causes. Administrative apathy of the government has also left the lake, said to be largest freshwater lake in Asia, gasping for survival.
Kashmir Reader was the first to report the panel’s approval to the companies last month. Minister for Cooperative and Ladakh Affairs, Cheering Dorjey who was part of the panel had told this newspaper that the panel has given its nod to two companies.
“We have unanimously decided to approve the selection of both the companies for joint venture after we had comprehensive deliberations and expert views on the issue. Altaf Bukhari (minster for Education) who was closely monitoring the dredging in river Jhelum also voted in favour of these companies besides all other members that were part of the panel,” Dorjey had said.