Srinagar, Mar 9 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal [NGT] has directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to pay an interim compensation of Rs. 1 crore each for illegal mining, dumping of solid waste and discharge of untreated sewage into the Doodh Ganga river, saying the authorities failed to check the environmental violations.
The tribunal directed the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary to take immediate action to remedy the situation and take coercive measures against the erring irresponsible officers for acting in contempt of directions of the Supreme Court and NGT, and causing harm to the environment and public health.
The NGT said the amount recovered may be utilised for restoration of the environment.
“It is for the state authorities to decide as to which measures are appropriate so as to prevent pollution of the river and prevent other violations of environmental norms and what is the source of funding,” the NGT said in an order on Tuesday while hearing an application moved by activist Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat. Dr Bhat is a regular contributor to The Leaflet, and had detailed the issue in a piece published here in October last year.
The principal bench of the tribunal said it found that neither dumping of solid waste, discharge of untreated sewage, and illegal mining were prevented nor legacy waste cleared, for which statutory timelines have already expired.
“The State is accordingly held liable to pay interim compensation of Rs one crore each under all the three heads which may be deposited in a separate account to be utilised for restoration of environment,” the NGT said.
“The amount may be deposited with the district magistrate, Budgam and spent as per plan approved by the chief secretary, consistent with the district action plan of the concerned area,” it said.
The NGT said it will be open to the state to recover the amount from the polluters/erring officers in accordance with law.
“For illegal mining, the loss caused to the State in the form of value of minerals as well as the loss caused to the environment for undertaking such activity without requisite clearances needs to be recovered by the state PCB (pollution control board) … It is also open to the state PCB to initiate prosecution against the violators,” the order read.
The tribunal asked the chief secretary to file an action taken report before it after interaction with the concerned officers within three months.
“The report may specify status of facilities to treat sewage as well as fecal sludges, protection of flood plain, lifting of waste from the banks of Doodh Ganga and Mamath Kull to the identified sites and processing it as per MSW [municipal solid waste] rules, cow dung management and other associated issues,” it said.
“In view of large-scale continuing violations, we consider it appropriate to direct that the principal secretary, urban development, Jammu and Kashmir to remain present in person on the next date of hearing on July 15 by video conferencing for interaction”, it concluded.