Custodian of wetland has no information about this, RTI reveals
SRINAGAR: The construction of an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) on the outskirts of Srinagar is being planned on a wetland that protects ten uptown areas from floods, but there has been no mention made of this to the department that is custodian of the wetland, information under RTI has revealed.
A query filed under Right To Information (RTI) asked the Rakhs and Farms department, the custodian of the Narkara wetland, whether the department had received any communication from the government about the proposal to set up an IIM on the Narkara wetland. The department replied: “No correspondence regarding the issue has been taken up by the government with the directorate (of agriculture).”
The Rakhs and Farms department functions within the Directorate of Agriculture. It is custodian of various wetlands and gives rights to farming on such marshes to cultivators who are called Kamas.
Kashmir Reader had earlier reported that the Executive Engineer, Flood Spill Channel division, Narbal, in a communication had observed that “many high-profile institutions, like Indian Institute of Management, are coming up at Narkara Numbal which actually is a flood basin. But due to land crunch and feasibility of location of such institutions, the site selection has become inevitable.”
The executive engineer’s communication was sent to the Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control department, in July this year.
As per the detailed project report prepared by the public works department (R&B), Kashmir, an amount of Rs 101 crore is required for filling with earth the Narkara marsh, which is home to a number of birds and helps maintain the water table. In the devastating floods of 2014, the Narkara wetlands helped many surrounding areas from getting submerged. Residents of these surrounding areas mentioned this in a letter to the Chief Minister, a copy of which is with Kashmir Reader.
The wetland safeguarded uptown areas of Hyderpora, Barzulla, Peerbagh, Natipora, Bemina, Sanatnagar, Bulbulbagh, Baghat, Gangubug and Rambagh from the flood waters.
The land is also classified as wetland in the Directory of Lakes and Water Bodies of JK State, prepared by the Department of Environment and Remote Sensing, a copy of which is also with Kashmir Reader.
A high-level site approval committee, comprising Director IIM Lucknow, Joint Secretary Ministry of Human Resource Development, and Commissioner Secretary Higher Education Department, has already approved the site. The state government has initiated the process of transfer of land, says the official document which is in possession of Kashmir Reader.
Education Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari had earlier told Kashmir Reader that he will never allow the use of wetland for the IIM’s construction.
“If the land is found to be wetland, I will not let it be used for the IIM,” he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has already directed the government to submit the demarcation report of the proposed site for the Srinagar IIM. Bukhari told Kashmir Reader that the submitted documents show that the land is not wetland. However, he said, he would go through the documents again to prevent a disaster from occurring.