By Faiz Bakshi
Environmental Policy Group(EPG) filed a well documented and well researched Public Interest Litigation titled Environmental Policy Group(EPG) vs Union of India & others before the Division Bench Of Jammu & Kashmir High Court.
The Petitioner has 16 respondents viz Ministry of Housing & Urban Development, Government of India; Ministry Of Forest, Ecology & Climate Change, Government of India; Ministry Of Railways & Ministry Of Surface Transport.
The other respondents are Government Departments of State Government Like Irrigation & Flood Control; Forest & Environment; Housing & Urban Development; Disaster Management; Jehlum-Tawi Flood Rehabilitation Project (World Bank Financed)& other Concerned Departments.
EPG collected relevant information through the use of RTI Act and consulted experts while preparing the comprehensive Petition which was also backed by Press Reports, Government Reports, and feedback from reliable and technical people. The PIL aims at identifying the factors – Natural & Manmade- responsible for devastating -2014 floods; failure of the Central & State Governments in taking Flood mitigation measures when the oncoming floods of 2014 were known since 2009.
The PIL also suggested the measures that needed to be taken for preventive measures needed to be taken in the future. The petition also prayed for holding people accountable.
During the past three years, EPG had vigorously pursued the case and succeeded in getting some pathbreaking orders some of which have been implemented while others are being implemented in a tardy manner.
The EPG stress has been on preservation of Water bodies, Wetlands and Flood absorption basins which have been under great threat through encroachments, Vandalisation, earth filling both by Government agencies and land mafia backed by powerful lobbies. Moreover, EPG provided an expert plan of action to I&FC Department for increasing the carrying capacity of Jhelum, Wular, Flood Spill Channel, Wetlands and Flood absorption basins. It is in this context that the dredging contract was awarded in a non-transparent manner to a tainted company which did dredging only at two spots of Shuvpora and Abdullah Bridge.
The only activity speedily is done under the tutelage if I & FC Department was extraction of sand at a massive scale and unscientific manner which fact has been brought by EPG to the notice of previous Government, Governor N.N.Vohra and Governor S.P.Malik’s Administration.
Two Serious incidents of breach of Jhelum Bank at Lasjan last year and cracking of Shiv Pora Embankment in April 2019. This was the result of tardy work of strengthening of 2014-breached embankments and damage caused by lorries ferrying extracted sand from Jhelum.
EPG is in the process of presenting a comprehensive report to the committee appointed by the Government to look into the charges of illegal dredging and implementation of contracts.