Action on ground needed
As we celebrated the ‘World Wetland day’ the harsh reality that we keep on ignoring is that water bodies across Jammu and Kashmir are under a threat. Most of them are experiencing extreme pollution, encroachment and brazen violation of environmental norms.
Though lot of funds, time and other resources have been spend for revival of most of these water bodies but the reality is that it seems that nothing is being obtained on ground and the situation is going from bad to worse.
What we are witnessing is the lack of scientific approach to tackle this pressing issue so that some progress is made to achieve a breakthrough to ensure that these water bodies are preserved and let to survive for the benefit of this place and our posterity.
Though the government has also formed a Committee for monitoring the overall progress in the identification, protection and restoration of water bodies but the task is so mammoth that mere administrative suggestions cannot restore the water bodies to the prime glory.
The committee headed by Administrative Secretary, Forest Ecology and Environment department is an eight member committee that has been asked to identify and protect all water bodies in J&K.
The committee was to assign Unique Identification Number to each water body, try to remove encroachments in and around the water bodies besides prevent dumping of waste in them, maintain water quality as per the recognized standards and to restore water bodies by taking other appropriate steps involving the Panchayats and the Community by utilizing the financial resources available from different sources and to evolve further monitoring mechanism as well as Grievance Redressal Mechanism (GRM).
The committee should take note that the water bodies in Jammu and Kashmir are shrinking at an alarming pace. Reasons can be many but prominently unplanned urbanisation, siltation and lack of conservation measures by the authorities are turning these wetlands into marshy lands and later our greed turns them into commercial and residential zones.
Wetlands and water bodies act as flood absorption basins by retaining excess waters and are also referred as the Earth’s kidneys for helping absorb wastes like nitrogen and phosphorous. In view of its flat topography, the Valley is highly vulnerable to flooding, but most wetlands, which acted as reservoirs of floodwaters, have lost their carrying capacity due to haphazard urbanisation and encroachments.
Ironically, most of these wetlands and water bodies which are connected to the Jhelum basin are gasping for breath due to both official and public apathy. The flood vulnerability of the Jhelum basin has been exacerbated during the last few decades as most of the wetlands in the river’s floodplains, which used to act as storage for the floodwaters, have been converted into agriculture land or built up areas.
The glaring examples are for all of us to see as several important wetlands in the Jhelum floodplains like Hokarsar, Bemina, Narakara, Batamaloo numbal, Rakh-e-Arth, Anchar Lake and Gilsar have vanished owing to rapid encroachment and urbanisation.
The total area of major wetlands in the Jhelum basin, with area greater than 25 hectare, has decreased from 288.96 sq-km in 1972 to 266.45 sq-km at present. Besides, the valley has lost 22 wetlands to urbanisation within and in the vicinity of Srinagar city alone, since 1970. This is a harsh reality and connot be ignored but what can help the water bodies is planned conservation.