Srinagar:The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh called a tabulated report from the the Chief Engineer, Irrigation & Flood Control (I&FC) department indicating the original length and breadth of the river Jhelum and the Padshahi Canal.
The court directed the Chief Engineer, I&FC department to submit the present status regarding the number of encroachments removed and the steps that are being taken in that regard.
Hearing a litigation regarding preservation, clearance and development of Padshahi Canal and river Jhelum, the court directed the respondents to also place before it a complete roadmap which they propose to implement for the cleanliness, preservation and the development of the river and the canals.
A division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul called for specific reports from each of the deputy commissioners of the districts, who are members of the committee, with regard to the position of the river and the canal existing in their district.
The bench further directed all the respondents to ensure that no drain/waste water or effluents or sewage or garbage is dumped into the river or the canals and to indicate the measures taken by them to stop the same.
“In order to save aquatic life, as at one point of time, it was reported that a large number of fishes were found dead and floating in river Jehlum, we direct the Director, Fisheries Department to submit a report in this regard,” the bench directed.
The respondents were directed to submit the reports within a period of one month from today.
The reports, the court said, shall be supplied to the amicus curiae, who may file his objections or suggestions, if any, within two weeks thereafter.
The directions were passed after the bench underscored that one of the basic factors contributing to the devastating floods of September 2014 in the Valley was narrowing down of river Jhelum due to encroachment on its sides and the non-silting of the river.
In this connection, directions were issued to the authorities to draw a plan for the preservation of the river Jhelum and the canals in order to avoid future calamity of the same nature.
The court observed that the Engineers of the I&FC department are equally responsible for the Floods of September 2014 and that they have to be adequately dealt with for dereliction of their duty/active connivance with the encroachers.
From time to time, a compliance report was submitted by the respondents including Chief Engineer, I&FC department and has placed on record that a large number of Kacha and Pacca structures, boundary walls etc. have been removed from the banks of the river.
The court, while appreciating the efforts of the respondents for complying the directions, directed Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir who is heading the Committee constituted by the Court to furnish a fresh status report as to the actions taken by the Committee with details of the meetings.
“The Chief Engineer, Irrigation & Flood Control Department is directed to submit in a tabulation form the entire exercise his department has taken right from the time of initiation of this PIL till date with reference to the original length and breadth of the river and the Padshahi Canal and their present status regarding the number of encroachments removed, and the steps that are being taken in that regard,”
Earlier, the court had directed the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar to get the area of the Padshahi Canal demarcated in liaison with the Chief Engineer, I&FC department and thereafter to ensure removal of all encroachments and to submit a report in this regard before the court.
The court had also constituted a Committee headed by Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, the Chief Engineer, I&FC department and Deputy Commissioners of districts Anantnag, Pulwama, Srinagar, Budgam and Baramulla as its members and as also Senior Superintendents of Police of the said districts.
The Committee was entrusted with the task of restoring the original width of the river Jhelum and for the removal of all encroachment without any compromise or laxity and to ensure the effective implementation of the J&K Water Resources (Regulation and Management Act) 2010.
The court will hear the matter again on November 24, 2021 alongwith connected petitions.