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Mining in Doodh Ganga: NGT says dissatisfied with actions taken 

Ziraat Times News Network

New Delhi, June 1: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its fresh order has said that it was dissatisfied with the working of J&K administration vis a vis controlling pollution and illegal riverbed mining in Doodh Ganga. The tribunal gave J&K Government 2 months time to implement its previous directions after  assurance was given by the newly posted Principal Secretary Housing & Urban Development Department.

The matter was listed for hearing on May 30th 2023 before the NGT bench of Justice Sudhir Aggarwal and Dr A Senthil Vel (Expert Member).

The counsels of the petitioner Advocates Rahul Chowdhary, Sruthi K petitioner Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, counsel for Ministry of Environment, Forests and climate change (MoEF) Balendu Shekhar along with around one dozen officers from J&K Govt including Principal Secretary HUDD JK Govt, Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Director ULB Kashmir, Chief Engineer UEED Kashmir , DC Budgam , Regional Director Pollution Control Committee, Director Geology & Mining JK Govt, District Mineral Officer Budgam were present during the hearing.

In its earlier hearing on 24.05.2023 the NGT observed that no substantial progress had been made and directed that effective and meaningful affidavits be filed in the context of remediation of existing dump sites providing waste processing facilities and preventing discharge of sewage from dewatering pumping stations.

“But, today no such update has been filed and whatever stated, is only reiteration of earlier reports. We are really dissatisfied with the manner in which the J&K Government has proceeded in this matter. Despite repeated opportunities granted, in the last almost more than two years, substantive progress has not been shown in the matter. It is not in dispute that both the rivers (Doodh Ganga & Mamath Kul) are still polluted and no effective steps have been taken either for mitigating or removing the pollution or for preventing the illegal mining in the river bed and flood plain zones of the said rivers”, reads the order a copy of which has been made available to Ziraat Times.

The Tribunal in its order said that there is no integrated and holistic approach on part of the Govt in putting the action plan into action. NGT said that the reports submitted by JK Govt only depicts outlays kept for expenditure, formulation of DPR and aspiring for tendering etc.

“According to the need, no short term measures are taken to lift solid waste dumped on the banks of two rivers to the final designated site for processing as per MSW Rules, 2016. With regard to sewage, the authorities have failed to set up decentralized/modular STPs at 13 dewatering pumping stations to arrest discharge of 16.23 mld of sewage “ the order further reads.

After personally getting assurance from the Principal Secretary that within 1 month the works would be executed on ground , the NGT bench granted the Govt 2 months instead . When the Tribunalasked why Govt didn’t pay remaining Rs 32 crores compensation money, the respondent officers gave assurance that Rs 32 crores would also be paid very soon. Pertinetly, Rs 35 crores penalty was imposed on Govt out of which Rs 3 crores were paid by SMC , Director ULB Kashmir and District Mineral Officer Budgam. The money had to be spent on the restoration of Doodh Ganga and sources say only Rs 1 crore was spent on making some protection walls but the payments were not made to the contractors who did that work around 6 months back.

While granting 2 months time to JK Govt to enforce its earlier orders the NGT bench said:

“However, now considering the assurance given by Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department, as requested, we grant him two months time to take wholesome effective steps for compliance of the direction given by this Tribunal in its earlier orders and file an action taken/compliance Report as on 31.07.2023 by 07.08.2023.”

In its earlier orders NGT has directed to ensure no liquid waste goes into Doodh Ganga and Mamath kul in areas falling in district Budgam and Srinagar municipal limits. The tribunal had ordered that Sewerage Treatment Plants-STPs be installed on Doodh Ganga in rural and urban area limits. Infact Govt had given assurance to NGT that it was going to spend Rs 149 Crores for the same. A direction was also given to remove all the legacy waste from banks of Doodh Ganga and its surrounding habitations in Budgam and Srinagar districts plus Govt was directed to stop illegal mining and take action against those people who violate JK Minor Mineral Concession Rules 2016 and State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority guidelines.

The matter is again listed for hearing on August 16th 2023.

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