Official Survey Paints Dismal Picture of JK’s Environment
Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)
Srinagar: Unbridled vandalisation of forests and water bodies coupled with haphazard planning and developmental activities is gradually pushing the eco-fragile Jammu and Kashmir to the verge of an eco-disaster, a fresh official survey has revealed. The baseline survey was conducted by the Department of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing, the nodal agency for preparation of state’s maiden State of Environment Report (SOER), an annual countrywide study mandatory for release of funds under a centrally sponsored scheme ‘Green India’ which finances the eco-friendly projects.
The survey has pointed out massive damage to the State’s environment mainly due to improper planning and recommended measures to prevent further damage to its fragile eco-system.
“Scrutiny of the data proved by various line departments has revealed dismal condition of J&K’s environment and points out that State is gradually heading towards an eco-disaster. In absence of proper planning and conservation measures, the condition of the State’s eco-system particularly forests and water bodies has extensively deteriorated,” the State Coordinator for SOER, Mutahirra Abida Wahid Deva told Greater Kashmir.
“An alarming indicator is the erratic climatic conditions particularly in the Valley during past few years which has resulted in fast melting of glaciers. This will ultimately cause soil erosion, floods and lead to paucity of drinking water,” she added.
The preparation of SOER was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the 10th Five Year Plan and the process was launched in 2002. While most of the states and union territories have prepared the SOER, however the process faced inordinate delay for past 8 years in JK mainly due to lack of expertise and infrastructure.
However, following an advisory by the Planning Commission, the State Government in November last year kick-started the preparation of SOER. For preparing the baseline SOER report, the nodal agency had on priority sought information from all the line departments of the State to assess condition of the environment.
The survey states that most of the developmental activities in the State are being undertaken without the mandatory Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) which helps to assess possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the environment.
“The State has been turned into a concrete jungle. Concrete constructions have been undertaken even in fragile zones across the State in violation of all environmental norms and, importantly, carrying capacity of respective areas. Despite the fact that Kashmir is placed in seismic zone five, making it highly vulnerable to earthquakes, high rise buildings are being allowed to come up. In case of earthquakes, these very buildings will prove to be major risk to human life,” Deva, quoting the survey, said.
The terms of reference of the SOER is to gather information on various human activities including impact of demographic shifts, changes in trends of industrial, commercial and transport character, urban economic activities on air, water and land.
The survey has also pointed that State’s agriculture land, karewas and wetlands face tremendous pressure mainly due to haphazard developmental activities. “The agricultural land is being used for non-agriculture purposes across the State. Major parts of the wetlands and karewas which help to maintain eco-system have been vandalized and encroached upon.”
It states that the cement factories, brick-kilns, and tar plants have come up in eco-fragile zone and are drastically affecting the environment. “The problem is coupled with high emissions from the Army vehicles operating in the State. Studies have revealed that besides eight lakh vehicles in the State, thousands of second hand vehicles registered in other states are operating in J&K adding to the pollution and traffic mess. We have recommended various measures including regulation of new vehicles, strengthening pollution control mechanism to check the menace,” Deva said.
The survey states that despite being major consumers of mutton, the State is without scientific abattoirs. “Most of the mutton sellers throw the internal organs and other residue directly into the drains which subsequently empty into the water bodies. In Shalteng area, chemicals and other harmful elements which are used to make leather from hides also pour in river Jehlum affecting its eco-system.”
The survey recommends construction of STPs across the State and micro water treatment facilities around Jehlum have been incorporated in the report. “The objective of the survey is to assess the Government’s current and proposed policy as a response to check further deterioration and build a baseline date to integrate environmental dimensions in the social, economic and sustainable development planning. We will be updating the data every year to maintain a balance between development and environment,” Deva said