DB directives in PIL regarding pollution of river water


Srinagar, Nov 5: In a Public Interest Litgation regarding pollution of the river water which, in turn, has affected the quality of drinking water being supplied to a large number of denizens of the two Districts of Budgam and Srinagar, Division Bench comprising Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Rashid Ali Dar directed Registry shall issue notice to the Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Srinagar; Chief Engineer, Public Health Engineering Department, Srinagar; Chief Engineer, Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED), Srinagar; Chief Engineer, Roads and Buildings Department, Srinagar; Deputy Commissioner, Budgam; Chief Executive Officer, Municipal Committee, Chadoora; Chief Executive Officer, Municipal Committee, Charar-i-Sharief; Director, Rural Sanitation Department, Srinagar; Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Srinagar; Chief of the Forest Protection Force, Budgam; Chief Executive Officer, Economic Reconstruction Agency, Rambagh, Srinagar; Director Fisheries Department, Srinagar; Superintendent, Bone & Joint Hospital, Barzulla, and Chief Executive Officer, Yousmarg Development Authority. These Departments / authorities shall file their respective responses to the matters identified hereinabove and pertaining to their respective sphere of working.
DB further observed that it hardly needs a mention here that, apart from filing their written statement as to the allegations / facts / figures /factors stated in the news report, the conc rned authorities shall also state what steps were taken by them in response to redress the problems identified, and what steps according to their opinion would need to be taken by them to solve the problems in question, giving all necessary details;all the concerned authorities shall clearly state how many drainage systems have been built by them which end up untreated in the water body and how many households sewage / waste pipes drop into the river and how many toilets have been constructed on the river or its tributary rivulets. In nutshell, the respective departments / agencies shall be responsible for collecting all the relevant data in this behalf.
This litigation in public interest has its genesis in a news report that had appeared in the English daily, mir, in its issue dated 02.08.2019, alleging apathy of the concerned government officials to the pollution of the water of Nalla Doodhganga, especially at the spot the Water Filtration Plant is situated at Kralapora in Tehsil Chadoora, District Budgam, which supplies potable water to lakhs of consumers in the Districts of Budgam and Srinagar, and specifying the various factors contributing to such pollution of the water above Kralapora, upstream upto the river source. The news report also reported that the concerned authorities were simply shifting their responsibilities. DB observed that from the record of this petition, it is seen that on 30.08.2019 the Registrar Judicial of the Court submitted a note containing a precis of the news report to the Chief Justice on the basis of which the Lord Chief Justice directed it to be registered as a PIL. On 04.09.2019 when the PIL was listed, the Division Bench ordered issue of notice to the J&K State Pollution Control Board through its Member Secretary; Department of Public Health Engineering through its Secretary, Civil Secretariat, Srinagar; and Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Srinagar, through its Commissioner, returnable on 30.10.2019. The record shows that such notices have been duly despatched. However, it is not known what documents were enclosed with the notices sent to these authorities. Be that as it may, no response has come on record on behalf of these respondents. The counsel representing the respective Departments / Corporation, who are present in the Court, seek time to file the same.DB further observed that it may be observed here that the content of the news report depicts prevalence of a grave situation all over the course of the Nalla, from its source to the Walter Filtration Plant, in the shape of health hazardous materials of sorts and pollutants being lead into, thrown and dumped in the water course or its Banks, risking not only the public hygiene, environment and ecology of the Nalla, but also the usefulness of the installation in question. The alarming situation cannot be described and brought home to the concerned, but by the content of the news report itself.
DB further observed that the news report, quoted above, is self explanatory. The situation described does not need to be elaborated. This Court does not have any means of its own to verify the veracity of the facts and statements disclosed and made in the news report, nor does it have any information as to the actions, if any, taken by the concerned authorities / agencies to attend to and address the problems identified therein and the alarming situation depicted by the news report, if true, is, obviously, attributable to the lackadaisical conduct and approach of the officers and officials of several governmental departments / agencies towards their respective duties. These departments include the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, the Public Health Engineering Department, the District Revenue Department headed by Deputy Commissioner, Municipal Committees of Chadoora and Charar-i-Sharief, Rural Sanitation Department, Forest Department, the Economic Reconstruction Agency, Fisheries Department and Yousmarg Development Authority.
DB further observed that it is important to note that the report sheds light on two major problems: first, about the pollution of the river water which, in turn, has affected the quality of drinking water being supplied to a large number of denizens of the two Districts of Budgam and Srinagar, posing an imminent danger to their health and affecting the river's biodiversity; second, the deterioration of the physical condition, ecology and environment of the river as such which adversely affects the scenic beauty through out its course. So far as the first of the above two aspects of the issue is concerned, the news report suggests that the Public Health Engineering Department has found a solution to the problem which is that the water has been decided to be tapped right at its source and brought to the Filtration Plant at Kralapora through a 20 Km long pipeline to mitigate this problem, and that the Project is under process with ERA. If it is so, then it is so good so far. But, reportedly, despite lapse of five years, the work has not yet been accomplished. This is somewhat alarming. Apart from the need to find out the veracity of the news report on the over all situations depicted above, response needs to be obtained from the concerned authorities / agency on the reasons for such a long delay and what measures in their opinion should be taken to accelerate the accomplishment of the project.
DB observed that as regards the other facet of the issue, it needs to be borne in mind that the problems reported relate to that segment of the river which falls beyond the location of the Water Filtration Plant / Water Supply Scheme at Karalapora upto its source. This area falls outside the jurisdiction of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. However, the over all condition of the water body is no better from Kralapora downstream within the jurisdiction of Srinagar Municipal Corporation. Liability for such a condition of the river, apart from the departments identified in para 5 above, may also lie with Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED), Roads and Buildings Department, Health and Medical Education Department. This is so because drainage systems constructed by one or the other of these agencies end up directly or by pump systems into the river. One such glaring example is of the pump system located just abreast the Barzulla bridge which, when on, warmly welcomes all passers-by, especially the tourists, with the extreme stink. It is also not known where does the waste of the Bone and Joint Hospital, especially its fluid waste, goes.
The news report has named the Expert, Dr. Qazi Hussain, who is reported to have made some research on the water body. After obtaining the responses from the concerned authorities named above, the Court, if it feels so, may seek opinion and assistance from Experts in the field, including said Dr. Qazi Hussain with a view to restoring the glory and cleanliness of the water body as a whole.
DB further observed that Court may in future also like to seek assistance from the Department of Gardens and Parks for beautification of segments of the Bunds of the river at some places, on the same pattern as was got done on the convent side of the Jehlum Bund.
DB observed that presently, in light of the above, the Court is of the opinion to collect the relevant data, information and opinions from the concerned departments / agencies, and, accordingly, makes above said directions.

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