A disaster in offing, say experts
ANANTNAG: The failure of Anantnag district administration to implement the ban it imposed on illegal extraction of stones, sand and boulders from different water bodies might turn out to be a serious environmental disaster, signs of which are already visible.
The practice continues unabated across Anantnag district and the peripheries.
In January 2016, Anantnag district administration had ordered a blanket ban on such extraction from water bodies in the district.
The administration, however, has been unable to implement its own orders and the extraction continues right under the nose of the administration.
Kashmir Reader has learnt that at least six to seven sensitive sites are being vandalized by the practice as of now, where the extraction of sand, stones and boulders is going on round the clock.
The sites include Lidder River in Aang Mattipora-on the peripheries of main town Anantnag; Brengi Nallah in Larkipora of Dooru area; Nallah Sandran in Vessu area of Qazigund; Nallah Sandran in Nussu Bhadragund; Lidder River in Akura area and several other places along River Jhelum.
The extraction at Lidder River in Aang Mattipora-in addition to the ban by district administration-had been banned by the High Court, in response to a Public Interest Litigation.
However for the last 15 days the extraction has been intensified and a round the clock vandalism is in top gear.
Heavy machinery like JCB’s and bulldozers are being used to extract sand, stones and boulders from these sites leaving an irreversible, disastrous impact on the environment.
Experts express horror at the unabated practice, saying that a catastrophe is in waiting.
Professor G M Bhat, a Geologist at Jammu University, told Kashmir Reader that such extraction will inevitably wreck havoc sooner than later.
“Not only does it disturb the aquatic life it weakens the river bed and in the process the structures nearby. The destruction in case of floods or a flash flood is going to be unprecedented,” Bhat said.
He said that an earthquake in such a scenario becomes even more lethal than it ought to be.
“The more immediate concern will be the diminishing ground water levels. The practice of unscientific extraction leaves only mud at the base of the water body which prevents percolation of ground water in nearby areas,” Bhat said.
This concern of Bhat is already coming true in many areas of Anantnag district.
The areas like Dooru, Dialgam, Kamad, Vessu and other places are already witnessing the ground water levels going down to worrying levels.
Wells in hundreds of orchards-meant to irrigate the trees-have already dried up forcing the people to dig new, deeper wells to cater to the irrigation needs of their trees.
“I had two wells in my orchard and both have dried up. I had to dig another deeper well recently to keep my orchard irrigated,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Kamad area of Anantnag district told Kashmir Reader.
While all this happening and a disaster seems inevitable the administration seems to be sleeping.
Even though some officials are taking pains to stop the menace, it seems to be out of any one’s control.
Recently the Executive Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) Anantnag wrote to police urging them to register an FIR against a construction company for violating the Water Resource Regulation and Management Act-2010.
The letter-number FCD/Ang/4365-69 dated January 8 2018; urged Station House Officer (SHO) Mattan to lodge an FIR against ‘Band Construction Prop’ for illegal extraction of Bed material from Lidder Nallah near Akura Bridge.
“As reported by the site in charge Engineer the above named agency is illegally extracting bed material from the above quoted spot. This unlawful activity is a clear cut violation of water resource regulation and management act of 2010,” the letter read.
It further read that the site in charge has already taken up the matter with the police but unfortunately the violation is still going on the site.
“It is as such requested that the FIR against the offender/culprit may be lodged as per the Act, so that this menace is stopped in future,” the letter read.
There however was no FIR by the police, despite repeated intimations from I&FC department.
The SHO concerned, Tawseef Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader that the violation could not be ascertained as such and hence no FIR was lodged.
“We went to the spot but it could not be ascertained that any illegal extraction of bed material had been done,” the SHO said.
Sources however maintain that the strong political links and connections within the police department kept the police from registering an FIR against the company.
The district administration meanwhile is still hopeful that they will be able to stop the menace in the coming days.
“It is a chronic problem and the solution is SRO-105, which the government has initiated to streamline the extraction at selected points and that too in a scientific manner,” Deputy Commissioner (DC) Anantnag, Muhammad Younis Malik, told Kashmir Reader.
He said that he will make sure that the current extraction-wherever going on-will be stopped.
The concerned people are hoping that the assurance might come true, at least this one time.