Srinagar, Dec 5: Eight years on, Jammu and Kashmir’s maiden Environment Policy to combat air pollution and soil contamination is yet to take off in the new Union Territory.
Framed in 2012, the Environment Policy was aimed at addressing environmental concerns. It was put in public domain in August 2018 when government sought suggestions from different stake holders including civil society groups. Since then it has been confined to papers.
An official of Forest Department said implementation of maiden Environment Policy is yet to see the light of the day.
“There is a dire need for effective Environment Policy as Jammu and Kashmir is vulnerable to natural disasters,” he said.
Being an eco-fragile zone, Jammu and Kashmir is confronted with environmental challenges due to unplanned urbanization, deforestation and encroachments on water bodies.
The official said Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed huge loss to the environment in the absence of Environment Policy.
“Draft of Environment Policy has recommended measures to protect and conserve critical ecological systems and improving the quality of life through sustainable management and use of natural resources. No measures have been taken so far to put these things into practice,” he said.
Environment Policy has put emphasis on protection of wetlands, forests and rivers of Jammu and Kashmir. It also underscores the need for putting an end to alarming air pollution and soil contamination.
“The problem of water pollution is very severe in Jammu and Kashmir. River Jehlum has been converted into a drain due to severe water pollution. Effluents from all the major towns find its way directly into this river which has severely damaged the water quality,” the draft reads.
Secretary Forests and Environment Manoj Kumar Dwivedi admitted that degradation of environment was a major concern in J&K.
“Government is taking all necessary measures for its protection. We are also working on effective implementation of Environment Policy in Jammu and Kashmir,” Dwivedi said.
Secretary Forests and Environment, however, said it was everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment. “Government needs support of people especially from civil society groups for preservation of environment,” he added.
Regional Director Pollution Control Board Rafi Ahmed said Environment Policy has not been implemented yet.
“The policy is basically an offshoot of environment act, 1986. Under the policy, the government had ordered to form district environment protection committees, which were supposed to conduct two meetings each month,” he said.
Ahmad said unfortunately, the implementation of the policy has been impeded due to various reasons. The lack of internet access at present, for example, is a major problem.
According to Pollution Control Board, 73 percent of the 201 million liters of sewage generate in the city daily goes untreated into Dal Lake or Jhelum. Similarly, shrinking of glaciers is another major environment issue in Kashmir which threatens to reduce the discharge in rivers.
There has also been increase in air pollution levels in the valley. National Green Tribunal has directed J&K government to prepare action plans to bring the air quality standard within the prescribed limit.