J&K’s new governance needs to take environment seriously

By: Bhushan Parimoo

Good​,​effective​ ​governance with​measurable ​respons​iveness, accountability​ and ​transparency​andzero tolerance to corruption​ are the hallmarks of modern public administration​. But in​case of J&K there is still much to be desired if the six decades of​ ground ​experience of this writer​is anything to go by.Much water has flown down​ ​the rivers of the erstwhile state with its washed away credibility,​ ​honesty​ and​dedication of purpose in every sphere of life.
With Dr Arun Kumar Mehta​taking over ​as the new Chief Secretary​ of J&K it ha​d been hopedthat the administrative deliverance​ ​system shall be brought on rails for the common cause that shall be​ ​consistent​ ​with concern,​c​are and​c​ompetence. Under the present​ ​dispensation​, honestly,​all eyes rest on him.​ ​The much talked​ about​drive to clear dead​ ​wood was expected to start with the augean stable of the​Civil ​Secretariat​ ​before it should have boiled down to a​junioremployee​s​here and there.​ ​
As an environmentalist​,​​one hadexpected​ that​under his​ ​directions​,​measures shall be taken to preserve, protect and improve​ ​upon​J&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 that​all ​State​s​/UT​s​shall 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 Knot​m,a well​ ​entrenched nexus thriving against law between the mining​m​afia and​ ​the caucus of​government d​epartments​ –from the Revenue, Mining, Police,​ ​Pollution Control Board,​ ​Forests and Vigilance​ t​hat 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 ​​n​allah​s​that bring and make available water, a relatio​n​ thicker​ ​than the blood relation, as every kind of life revolves around it. These​ ​are vandalised​, and this murder of​n​ature 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 to​high 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​ ​the​e​environment 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 for​mining 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.

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