The constitution of a three-member ‘Committee of Experts’ by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to restore and preserve the world famous Dal Lake is a welcome step. The committee, headed by E Sreedharan, former chief of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, would ascertain and suggest measures to protect the water body from further degradation and retrieve it to its original glory. According to report published by Live Law.in the bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur took stock of the current situation of Dal Lake and the attitude of the local officials in handling the same and found that nothing much has changed despite the court passing a string of directions since year 2002 and State having spent Rs 400 crore to check issues plaguing Dal Lake. The committee is comprising E Sreedharan, Dr. Nivedita P. Haran, IAS (Retired), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department, Govt. of Kerala and renowned environmentalist M. C. Mehta, who is a native of Jammu and Kashmir, said the report. While Sreedharan would be the chairperson, Dr Nivedita would be the coordinator of this committee. The bench also set out the terms of reference of this committee which includes ascertaining the status of the Dal Lake; ascertaining all measures required to be undertaken for its restoration, maintenance and preservation as well as all ancillary issues including securing the banks of the Dal Lake; re-settlement, relocation and rehabilitation of persons residing or carrying on business on its banks or in the Dal Lake (say in Houseboats etc.,). The committee has also been empowered to rope in any national or even international expert to facilitate in the task of reviving Dal Lake.
The Dal is virtually in its last throes of death. Various governments in the past and present have time and again claimed to work for restoration of the glory of the lake. Hundreds of crores of rupees are reported to have been spent on cleaning the lake but its deterioration could not be arrested. It is generally believed that the officials responsible for taking care of the Dal have siphoned of most of the funds listed for it. The departments concerned with the maintenance of the lake and keeping it clean are doing just the opposite. There is absolutely no accountability. There is a free for all prevalent everywhere. There is no co-ordination among various departments of the government. The only one thing where co-ordination and cooperation seems supreme is passing of underhand transactions. Dal, for histories, has remained the face of Kashmir and symbol of its beauty. It now likes look an ugliest mark on Kashmir’s face. Both, common people as well state officials have equally vandalized and brutalized this water body. Others simply watched as mute spectators. From 26 sq Km of original are, it has now squeezed to around 10 sq km. It is not time to single out the people responsible for the destruction of the Dal. But it is time to take measures to protect whatever little has been left of the Dal. The rot is not restricted to the Dal only. River Jehlum, once known for its pristine and fresh water, is also dying a fast death. It is not going overboard to say that Jehlum has virtually turned in to a sewerage drain.Every drain of human waste flows into the river. Its stinking water is cause of many diseases among the people living on banks of the river. Late chief minister Mufti Mohammad Saeed had taken some effective measures to restore the beauty of the Dal and Jehlum. Beautification of River Jehlum was his dream project. In his first stint as chief minister, several portions of Jehlum bank were cleaned off encroachment and illegal constructions and were developed beautifully. Initially, Mahbooba Mufti, showed enough interest in Dal development and she used to take stock of work done on the Dal on weekly basis. People come and go. They are remembered for their actions. The ire and anger notwithstanding, people still remember Jagmohan as a man of ‘development’ in his first tenure. The incumbent governor can make a persona of himself by taking a major development programme for restoring the Dal Lake to its pristine glory.