Srinagar: An irate High Court on Monday asked state officials what they had done in the 16 years since a public-interest litigation (PIL) was taken up by the court on the preservation of Dal Lake. The court directed officials to inform about the public funds spent by the central government and the state government on projects relating to the Dal Lake in these 16 years.
Direction was also passed to Additional Advocate General (AAG) BA Dar to list the projects for which the disbursement of funds was made, the date thereof and the amount, the date of completion of the work as per its award to an agency, and the current status of the work.
“Court orders for the past sixteen years have been of no avail as the respondents do not appear to have addressed any issue sufficiently to have made any significant impact. This is despite appointment of an Expert Committee and its recommendations. It would appear that a High Level Expert Committee is required to monitor the steps relating to the restoration and preservation of the Dal Lake and their completion,” the court said.
A division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur remarked that Kashmir and Dal Lake were synonymous with each other. If the Dal is gone, they said, Kashmir will also be lost.
Chief Justice Mittal observed that if state authorities were willing to work, she would take up this case (PIL) on daily basis.
The court observed that the PIL on Dal Lake had engaged the attention of the court for almost 16 years and the order sheet in the case runs into 13 volumes.
“A cursory examination thereof would show that repeated agony has been expressed by the Division Benches with regard to the failure as well as inability of the respondents to take effective steps for discharging their constitutional, statutory, as well as public law responsibilities,” the court said.
The court also asked for a report from state authorities on development of weeds in the lake, untreated sewage flowing into the lake, negative impact on account of dwellers on the lake, complaints regarding propriety as well as adequacy of measures by the state, catchment area of the lake shrinking on account of encroachments and unwarranted constructions, requirement of protection of streams which supply the waters of the Dal Lake, loss of depth of the Dal Lake and effective measures for its dredging/restoration.
The court directed the AAG to file a statement of facts within two weeks with respect to a news report published in daily newspaper The Kashmir Monitor on 07.09.2018: “Each day, 73% of 201 million litres of sewerage in Srinagar goes untreated into Dal, Jehlum”.
In another fresh application moved by senior counsel Zaffar Shah, directions were sought from the court for site inspection of Dal Lake. The court said that the issue will be taken up on the next hearing.
The court directed that on the next date of hearing, “We shall be informed as to what has been the fate of the relocation and the rehabilitation (of lake dwellers) by the State, whether persons who have been given resettlement allotments have moved to the resettlement sites and the State has been able to retrieve the land from where they were resettled.”
The court added, “We shall also be informed by the Director Fisheries and the Wildlife Department about the fish population and other lake organisms which used to be found in Dal Lake when it was still healthy and as are to be found today.”
Direction was also passed to the AAG to inform the court about the relevant authority on the bird population of the Dal Lake.