HC sets deadlines for Dal Lake clean-up

HC sets deadlines for Dal Lake clean-up
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Floating gardens to be dismantled within 6 months, houseboats and hotels get 3 months to stop sewage outflow

Srinagar: “The exercise of dismantling and clearing floating gardens shall be completed within six months,” the J&K High Court said on Thursday with regard to the Dal Lake. The court made it clear that violation of any of its directions on Dal Lake will invite strict action, including contempt proceedings.
After considering the report submitted by Committee of Experts (COE), a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar passed a slew of directions to the state government as well as to the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) for preserving and maintaining Dal Lake.
The court directed the J&K Chief Secretary to examine the COE’s recommendation to create a fully dedicated and empowered “Dal Lake Conservation and Development Authority”.
The court directed the COE to examine and recommend to LAWDA the manner in which the existing boundaries of floating gardens can be marked immediately, so that there is no expansion thereof.
“LAWDA shall put non-removable markers indicating present boundaries of the floating gardens. These may also be put on paper and supported with video and photographic evidence,” the division bench said.
LAWDA was directed to ascertain within one week details of families exclusively dependent on vegetable cultivation within the lake.
“LAWDA shall draw out and implement the plan to rehabilitate such families providing them avenues for gainful employment including agriculture, as there will result an unmet demand within the city for the vegetables itself, upon dismantling of these gardens,” the court directed.
The court directed LAWDA to undertake effective steps for simultaneous cessation of all vegetable cultivation and rehabilitation of the growers over the next three months.
LAWDA has been directed to make every effort to ensure that the rehabilitees can begin cultivation at the new site without losing a season and their earnings.
With regard to stopping sewage of effluents from commercial establishments including hotels, restaurants and shops, the court directed LAWDA to issue notices asking all the commercial establishments to install technically suitable and environmental friendly arrangements within three months for treatment of sewage and sullage (grey water) within their premises itself, without releasing any sewage or sullage into the Dal or into any Nallah that flows into the Dal or any other lake.
“The establishment shall be directed to intimate LAWDA of the compliance of the directions which shall be subject to inspection by LAWDA and the J&K State Pollution Control Board,” the court said.
The court further said that in case of failure to comply with the directions, “the polluter pays” principle will apply. The polluting unit shall have to shut down its operations and deposit a penalty of a minimum of Rs 50,000 with LAWDA, subject to enhancement by this court upon consideration of the nature and magnitude of the violations.
“It shall be the responsibility of the State Pollution Control Board to regularly test the discharge from the commercial units and place the results in the public domain on its website,” the court directed.
With regard to stopping pollution of the Lake from catchments areas, the court directed LAWDA and state government to undertake steps for generating awareness among families living and cultivating in the catchment areas and upstream.
“The Vice Chairman of LAWDA shall notify technical and scientific experts who shall be assigned specific locales to generate awareness and enable farmers to shift to organic farming,” the court ordered.
It was further directed that LAWDA shall examine the possibility of prohibiting use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the catchment areas.
To tackle the night soil from houseboats, the state government and LAWDA have been directed to immediately assess the optimum number of houseboats which could be permitted to be anchored in the Dal Lake.
The court said that if the existing number of houseboats is beyond the ideal number, then the registrations/ licences of houseboats which lapse should not be renewed.
The court directed LAWDA to identify houseboats which are anchored illegally in the Dal Lake and forthwith stop their operation and remove them from the lake.
The court directed each houseboat to be fitted with bio-digesters and the effluents from the bio-digesters to be further treated to fully comply with State Environmental norms. “The steps in this regard have been initiated by the State Government. The most suited model which is efficient, cost effective and easy to be maintained should be procured at the earliest,” the court said.
On removal of encroachments/ un-authorised constructions by houseboat owners, LAWDA has been directed to take immediate steps for removal of the same.
“LAWDA shall issue seven-day notices to the houseboat owners for removing the illegal constructions, encroachments, activities and thereafter the same shall be removed by LAWDA,” the court directed.
The court further directed LAWDA to submit a report in this regard with photographs before and after removal of encroachments/unauthorised constructions.
With regard to management of solid waste around the Lake, the court directed the Srinagar Municipal Corporation to put in place a system of segregation of garbage at source around the Dal Lake within a month.
“Colour coded garbage bins be placed in strategic and designated points for domestic households and commercial establishments,” the court said.
Regarding prevention of effluents from Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) coming into the Dal Lake, LAWDA has been directed to provide the sewerage network map to the COE, besides the sizes of the STPs, their capacity utilisation, the technology used, their efficiency based on testing of discharge, etc.
The court directed State Government and LAWDA to ensure that no constructions within the boundaries of the lake are permitted to exist. “The boundaries of the Lake shall be displayed on the website of the LAWDA”, it said.
The court also directed Secretary, Department of Environment and Forest, to make available geological or any other maps, satellite, digital or other imageries setting out the boundaries of the Lake and the variations thereof over a period of time.
“With regard to measures for rehabilitation and relocation of dwellers, the concerned authorities including LAWDA has been directed to ensure that the process of identification of families who are required to be relocated is completed at the earliest,” the court said.
The court directed the concerned authority to place before the court details of all steps necessary for ensuring proper infrastructure in the Rakh-e-Arth rehabilitation site, with timelines which would include provision for a government school, college, healthcare centre, as well as community facilities in the nature of a community centre, playground and skill training centre for youth.
LAWDA was also directed to provide details of the families who have been shifted, the land from which encroachment has been removed, and steps taken for protecting the same. A report on this is to be placed before the COE, which has to physically verify the same.
Earlier, Amicus Curie Advocate ZA Shah informed the court that the term of the Scientific Advisory Committee had come to an end. The court said that in view of the observations of the COE, the extension of the committee was not necessary.
The court’s directions came after the Committee of Experts on 26th November submitted its first compliance report before the court.