Good,effective governance withmeasurable responsiveness, accountability and transparencyandzero tolerance to corruption are the hallmarks of modern public administration. But incase of J&K there is still much to be desired if the six decades of ground experience of this writeris anything to go by.Much water has flown down the rivers of the erstwhile state with its washed away credibility, honesty anddedication of purpose in every sphere of life.
With Dr Arun Kumar Mehtataking over as the new Chief Secretary of J&K it had been hopedthat the administrative deliverance system shall be brought on rails for the common cause that shall be consistent with concern,care andcompetence. Under the present dispensation, honestly,all eyes rest on him. The much talked aboutdrive to clear dead wood was expected to start with the augean stable of theCivil Secretariat before it should have boiled down to ajunioremployeeshere and there.
As an environmentalist,one hadexpected thatunder his directions,measures shall be taken to preserve, protect and improve uponJ&K’s imperiled biodiversity. As opined by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India“Itis vital for the wellbeing of the nation and its people to have a flexible mechanism to address all issues pertaining to environmental damage and resultant climate change so that we can leave behind a better environmental legacy, for our children, and the generations thereafter. Great Law of theIroquois(as it originates from the Iroquois Tribe) which requires all decision making to withstand for the benefit of seven generations down the line”.
Article 48 A of the constitution lays down thatall States/UTsshall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the country, while Article51A (g) places duty on thecitizensof India to protect and improve the natural environment and compassion for all living creatures.
Both of these two Articles of the Constitution have to co-exist to protect and improve the natural environment. Question arises where the public stands without any statutory powers or administrative support. It is desired that it shall support public endeavour to break a Gordian Knotm,a well entrenched nexus thriving against law between the miningmafia and the caucus ofgovernment departments –from the Revenue, Mining, Police, Pollution Control Board, Forests and Vigilance that operate in a well calibrated manner.
One of the great causes to be concerned with all the time for an environmentalist,apart from other relevant issues,is that the rivers, streams and nallahsthat bring and make available water, a relation thicker than the blood relation, as every kind of life revolves around it. These are vandalised, and this murder ofnature is done in full knowledge of the Commissioner/ Secretary, Director Geology and Mining, Divisional Commissioner and District Development Commissioners concerned. On social media a video got viral of a public meeting with regard to the allotment of a mining Block in Reasi, presiding officer respond tohigh ratesof the material being charged, said interest of the contractor has to be taken in view, who pays the revenue. As often said, the fence eats the field. It needs to be shared that the Environment Awareness Forum, a forty year old NGO with unblemished service for theeenvironment cause, has been approaching, in person and through writing for the last three years about it, within concerned functionaries but of no avail. Concept of Harakari is not in our society that should have been the only remedy for the intolerable sufferings.
Rivers provide excellent habitat and food for many of the earth’s organisms. These very sources,which mean life to the Biosphere, are vandalised through reckless unscientific mining of Sand, Bajri, stones and gravels. The extraction for the minor minerals that has to be enforced and monitored as per guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change , January 2020.Envisaged adhered word for word nothing is there to read in between the lines.
But continues to be violated strangely as well under the present Chief Secretary. Guidelines support the fundamental concept, promote environmental protection, and limit negative physiological, hydrological and social impact underpinning sustainable economic growth. It is statutory before the commencement of mining operations, the depth of Sand quarrying needs to be measured accurately using advanced technology. A copy of the approved mining plan Photographs and sketches showing the pit dimensions, depth etc be kept at the quarry site for ready references. The mining area must be demarcated at a minimum distance of at least 50 m away from the river embankment on either side. The boundaries of the quarries may be fixed with reference to the existing survey marks from the survey fields adjacent to the river. Sand quarrying lease area shall be demarcated on the ground with pucca stone or concrete pillars to show the present natural bed level and the depth mining allowed. Boundary pillars shall be erected at an interval of 50 m each on all four sides of the sand quarry site with red flag on every pillar and also in site pillars. The level of shoal height, river bed height and depth to be executed up to one meter downwards shall be marked in the pillars to avoid any deviation from the approved depth of excavation. Periodic monitoring at least four times in a year, pre-monsoon, Monsoon, Post Monsoon, and winter shall be carried out.
Minimum of two CCTV cameras, one each at the entry and exit point and one PTZ camera may be installed at all quarries/depots to monitor illegal if any taking place in the sand quarry/depot. During operation of the quarries it has to be ensured that at no point in time, the depth of quarry exceeds 1 meter depth from the river bed level and quarrying is done in a uniform manner over the entire mining area to avoid over exploitation and formations of pits at fixed places. No heavy machinery has to be engaged; the distance of one cluster to the other should be 2.5 kms apart.
Restricted working hours formining operations have to be carried out between 6 am to 7 PM. No sand transporting vehicles to be parked inside the quarry/depot site during night time. No mining activity shall be carried out in the flowing water Channel area within the mining lock and adequate measures shall have to be taken to safeguard water quality and aquatic life including Fisheries. Mining Mineral contractor shall maintain electronic weighbridge with a provision of CCTV camera and all dispatches from the mine shall be accounted for, The river bed material shall be sold to the local population within a radial distance of 2 kms from the mine site for residential purposes at 50% concessional rate. Apart from it under CSR within 2 kms radial distance, activities like regular health check up of local villages once a week shall be undertaken with free medicines. Safe drinking water facility installation of water filters shall be undertaken. Skill development training shall be organized for unemployed local youth.
Further. Construction of toilets in Schools. Solar street lights, free distribution of books, notebooks,N95 masks, hand sanitizer and school bags among students within 2 km radius from the mine area shall be undertaken. Under EMP,with 2 kms radial distance from the mine area, air, water. soil, noise pollution monitoring over half yearly basis, black topping of roads passing through villages and maintenance of haulage/extraction routes, water sprinkling, PPE to mine workers, bearing of school/college fee and allied costs on education of children of mine workers, bearing of all costs on ailment/healthcare of mine workers. Creation of greenbelt of raising and maintaining of 2500 trees per hectare each year etc. Violation of the rules causes damage beyond
belief, to river beds depriving its natural capacity to recharge ground water, depriving aquatic habitat. Nobody is listening in the Administration, not hard to guess the reason behind it.