CASES ON PROTECTION OF LAKES | Centre for Science and Environment


CASES ON PROTECTION OF LAKES

Dal Lake
Jammu and Kashmir

Dal Lake is one of the world's largest natural lakes. In 1200 AD, the lake covered an area of 75 sq km. By the 1980s, only 25 sq. km survived, and today this lake stretches over barely 12 sq. km. The lake now shelters about 50 hamlets with a population of over 50,000 people, who have property rights over 300 hectares (6,000 kanals) of agricultural land and 670 hectares (13,400 kanals) of water area. Besides this, a large number of commercial and residential buildings such as hotels, guest houses, restaurants and houseboats have sprung up in and around the Dal. All these have drastically reduced the size of the lake.

The lake has shrunk from the original 75 sq km to around 12 sq km and the depth has reduced from 45 feet to 4 feet. The water area has been lost due to lotus and nedumboo cultivation.

On July 24, 2000, a writ petition was filed by Syed Mujtaba Hussain, a human rights lawyer, and Green Kashmir, a Srinagar based non governmental organization, against the Union Government of India; the State of Jammu and Kashmir; the J&K Lakes Waterways Development Authority; the J&K Pollution Control Board; the Urban Environmental Engineering Department, Srinagar; and the Ministry of Urban Development, Srinagar. The petitioners invoked the extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India (SC), under Article 32 of the Constitution, urging it to intervene to save the Dal Lake that has turned into a ‘reservoir of sewage, wastes and effluents. The petition was on behalf of the people of Kashmir who have been deprived of a clean and healthy environment, ‘leading to an infringement of their fundamental rights’, said the litigants.

Syed Iqbal Tahir Geelani, a law student then wrote a letter to the chief justice in 2002 against the construction around the Dal Lake. The constructions are in violation of the Srinagar Master Plan, 1971. The High Court (HC) took up the issue and converted it to the PIL against the UNION OF INDIA. Several Intervention Applications were also filed on this Writ Petition.

 


In 2000, a writ petition was filed by Syed Mujtaba Hussain, a human rights lawyer, and Green Kashmir, a Srinagar based non governmental organization, against the Union Government of India; the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K); the J&K Lakes Waterways Development Authority; the  J&K Pollution Control Board; the Urban Environmental Engineering Department, Srinagar; and the  Ministry of Urban Development, Srinagar. The petitioners invoked the extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India (SC) under Article 32 of the Constitution, urging it to intervene to save the Dal Lake that has turned into a ‘reservoir of sewage, wastes and effluents.’

 


This case (WP No. 436 of 2000) is still under consideration of the SC of India. The following are the highlights of court actions, government initiatives and citizens' involvement.

 
1997
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had launched Rs 500 crores ‘Save Dal’ Project.
 
1998
An amount of Rs. 5 lakhs was released in February 1998 to Jammu & Kashmir Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) for preparation of pre-feasibility report on the pollution abatement of River Jhelum in four towns namely, Anantnag, Srinagar, Sopore and Baramulla. The proposal was returned to the state government for their comments in June 1998, as it was not found sustainable in view of the high cost of operation and maintenance.
 
1999
However, till March 1999, only 335 families (out of 6,000) had been shifted. This excludes 331 families shifted during 1978-97 under previous projects.
 
2000
On July 24, a written petition was filed by Syed Mujtaba Hussain, a human rights lawyer, and Green Kashmir, a Srinagar based non governmental organisation, against the Union Government of India; the State of Jammu and Kashmir; the J&K Lakes Waterways Development Authority (JKLWDA) the J&K Pollution Control Board (JKPCB) the Urban Environmental Engineering Department, Srinagar; and the Ministry of Urban Development, Srinagar, urging it to intervene to save the Dal Lake that has turned into a ‘reservoir of sewage, wastes and effluents.
 
2000
On September 11, the apex court issued a show cause notice to all the respondents. It asked them to specify their respective roles in controlling the flow of pollutants in the lake.
 
2001
The petitioner filed a rejoinder expressing his unhappiness over the expenditure sheet submitted by the JKLWDA. He claimed that the details submitted are too general and requested the court to direct JKLWDA to submit a detailed account of expenses. The rejoinder observed that if the respondents continue to blame each other on the non-release of funds, then precious time will be wasted on this squabble, while the condition of the lake deteriorated further.
 
2001
The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre, the Jammu & Kashmir Government and others to file, within four weeks, their responses to a public interest petition seeking protection to the world-famous Dal Lake in Srinagar against the growing pollution in and around the lake. The court appointed Ms. Kamini Jaiswal as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter and directed listing of the petition after six weeks.
 
2001
The Supreme Court referred the case to the High Court.
 
2002
Syed Iqbal Tahir Geelani in 2002 writes a letter to the Chief Justice of HC against the construction around the Dal Lake. The constructions are in violation of the Srinagar Master Plan, 1971. This was converted to PIL and later on tagged to the PIL filed in 2000.
 
2002
In July the first detailed direction was given by the high court bench. The authorities were given directions to clean Dal.
 
2005
In the hearing of the PIL, LAWDA and Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) tried to mislead the court. Strictures filed against them.
 
2006
The high court appointed a three member committee to look at the condition of the Dal Lake. The three-member committee, headed by district and session judge Abdul Wahid and co-opted by three officials, had visited the Dal Lake on October 5, October 10, and October 15 for the inspection. The report had stated that many illegal constructions had been raised in the recent past in the Dal Lake and within the 200 meters of its peripheral area. The report had said LAWDA vice-chairperson was conscious of illegal construction raised within lake and its periphery but pleaded helplessness.
 
2005
The Court directed the Commissioner to present before it the particulars of all people who have raised the structures in the Lake and within 200 meters. The High court directed that if a person raises construction after demolition, he should be arrested. The court added “Any litigation concerning construction within the Dal Lake, 200 meters from the Lake and in the green belt should not be entertained. Whosoever is found planting trees or anything in the Lake, will be taken into custody”. The court also directed houseboat owners to realign the houseboats in a geometric form.
 
2005
In response to the strictures filed against Ms Jehan of LAWDA, she argued that the NGOs -- the Green Kashmir and HOPE -- were collecting polythene and other solid waste from the lake. The NGOs, she said, were servicing about 9000 structures including houseboats. Ms Jehan said there was no law, which would ban use of polythene in and around the lake, though the District Magistrate had issued restriction orders under section 133. About the demolition of structures within the lake, the affidavit said these constructions were raised in narrow channels and it was impossible for the LAWDA to demolish these structures manually.
 
2005
The Centre approved a project costing Rs. 237.70 crores to conserve the famous Dal Lake. The Dal Lake was spread over an area of 75 sq. km but by 1980s, only 25 sq. km survived. Today, the lake stretches over barely 12 sq. km.
 
2005
The court gave fresh directions to the PIL. The Bench directed the Chief Secretary to convene a meeting of the high level co-ordination committee set up under the court orders and to ask its nodal agency (Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department) to submit a fresh status report by the next date of hearing. The Bench directed the Registrar (Judicial) to open a Dal Conservation Fund. The fund would be open to the public for contributions.
 
2006
J&K High Court had directed Lakes and Waterways Development Authority to resume demolitions around the Dal Lake and file a status report on the illegal structures from Dal Gate to Mughal Gardens in Srinagar. Government had also built settlement tanks to prevent silt from going into the lake.
 
2006
A note on Syed Iqbal Tahir Geelani taken by the high court. Over 300 hotels, restaurants, government offices and residential complexes were put on demolition notice by the LAWDA following HC’s directions.
 
2007
In March, the High Court Bench, comprising former Chief Justice, Justice Bashir Ahmad Khan and Justice Bashir Ahmad Kirmani could not agree on the steps needed to be taken. In a 41-page judgment, Chief Justice Khan ordered the demolition of all constructions within a strip of 130 feet from the centre of the road.

The Jammu and Kashmir government transferred 376 hectares of land to the Lakes and WDA and Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) to conserve the Dal Lake and rehabilitate families displaced by Lake's conservation work.

 
2007
In August, State Pollution Control Board has initiated prosecution against the famous Hotel Grand Palace and Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED) for raising unauthorized structures around Dal Lake, a Division Bench of Jammu & Kashmir High Court today expressed displeasure over the signatures of a junior official on PCB's affidavit.
 
2007
In November, the high court directed the chief secretary of the state to give particulars of all the officers and officials associated directly or indirectly with the implementation of directions of the court right from July 19, 2002. The division bench comprising acting chief Justice of high court Justice Nisar Ahmad Kakroo and Justice Hakim Imteyaz Hussain issued these directions in view of a report submitted by the monitoring committee appointed by the court (in 2005). Registrar judicial in his report had revealed that the water bodies have not been cleansed from the menace of polythene bags and solid wastes. Shop keepers and public in and around the Dal Lake are making use of polythene bags.

Erections had been made notwithstanding directions of the court and no illegal structures had been demolished during the last two years. According to the report officials in LAWDA associated with the job of monitoring and removal of the structures had not discharged their obligation. Construction material had been freely allowed to enter into the area which stands partly utilized in the construction of fresh structures. The report has further added that encroachment on watery land in the form of Nadroo and Lilly. The trees that had been cut down were not removed from the neighbouring area of the Dal. Almost all the dredgers and weed harvesters were found non functional. No scheme for treatment of sewage from house boats had been devised. The court directed that the vice chairman LAWDA should ensure implementation of the directions in their letter. The chief secretary had been directed to file the reply to the recommendations suggestions of the committee by the next date of hearing December 4, 2007. The committee was asked to report the improvement.

 
2007
In December, the court received a fresh report from the monitoring committee headed by the registrar Judicial Abdul Wahid, who had visited various spots around Dal Lake.
 
2007
In December, the high court deferred pronouncement of its order with regard to instances of violations and non compliance of its directions deteriorating condition of the Dal Lake. The court declared that the order would be pronounced on December 5. The court appreciated the efforts of chief secretary B R Kundal. The double bench comprising of acting Chief Justice of high court Justice Nisar Ahmad Kakroo and Hakim Imtiyaz Hussain deferred the order saying that they would have to consider each and every aspect before pronouncing the judgment. The high court said that the court should not be satisfied with the affidavit produced by the chief secretary only but it should take into consideration the present condition of the Lake as well.
 
2007
On December 5th, the court monitoring committee was asked to conduct the inspection of area in and around the Dal Lake. The monitoring committee visits the site on December 15.
 
2007
The committee questioned the discrepancy between the reports produced by PCB and the LAWDA scientists on the Sewerage Treatment Plant installed at Grand Palace and Centuar Hotel in Srinagar. According to the LAWDA, these plants which empty their sewage into the lake, were not working within the prescribed parameters, as shown by PCB authorities. LAWDA, according to the committee report should take up the removal of bacteria ‘Azola’ from the lake on war footage. The committee had found that the water channel from Konikhan to Syedakadal, an outlet for the lake, had been converted to almost a cesspool, full of solid waste. The committee had noticed during this inspection that LAWDA were seriously trying to address the problems being presently faced in making this channel operational again. During inspection, it had also been noticed that almost all the inhabitants living on the periphery of this channel threw their garbage in this channel. The PCB and municipality were asked to take concrete actions regarding the awareness of the local people. According to committee report the demolition squad of LAWDA had demolished about 13 small structures till the last visit of the committee.
 
2008
The High Court pulled up the government over non-implementation of its orders from time to time regarding the conservation of Dal Lake. The division bench comprising Justice Nisar Ahmad Kakroo and Justice Hakim Imtiyaz Husain directed the chief secretary, SS Kapur, to ensure implementation of orders on the issue. 85 crores spent on Dal till date.
 
2009
On 31st January, the Pollution Control Board submits a report to the High Court on the Dal Lake. High levels of lead, arsenic, iron, manganese, copper and cadmium were reported.
 
2009
On February 9th, the single bench referred to the full bench the case of demolition of the buildings from Dal gate to Nehru Park constructed against the violation of Master Plan.
 
2009
On February 24th, LAWDA was directed by the court to stop the operations of hotels, houseboats and commercial units mentioned in the state pollution board's report filed on January 31. The Bench directed the administration to conduct an inquiry against the officers who had allowed the illegal constructions in violation of court orders.
 
2009
On February 27th, the court directed the state government to shut down 1,200 houseboats moored along the shores of the Dal until the owners ensured that the historic Srinagar lake was not being poisoned by houseboat waste. The high court issued the directive after taking cognizance of a recent pollution control board report, which said open houseboat lavatories are a major source of pollution. A bench of Justice, Ahmad Karol and Justice Hakim Amities Hessian, asked the LAWDA and Stringer municipal corporation to implement the court’s directions and appraise it daily on the progress made. The court appointed Divisional Commission, Kashmir, to conduct detailed inquiry into the illegal constructions raised in the lake during elections as reported by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). The court had directed the inquiry officer to name the officials and their designation directly responsible for helping the illegal constructions. 

The HC also directed the administration to inquire into the lapses of the officers in permitting constructions by violating its orders. The authorities started sealing of houseboats operating in Dal Lake and other encroachments surrounding the lake. LAWDA have demolished illegal constructions, including houses, lavatories and slaughter houses in and around Dal Lake. Seven people were injured during the demolition drive. LAWDA announce that the houseboats would be allowed to function again as soon as they construct a waste bin to divert the sewage into LAWDA’s sewerage treatment plants. Local people protested. A demolition squad of the LAWDA had to leave its drive half way today and flee in the face angry demonstrations against the sealing of houseboats.

 
2009
Houseboat Owners Association (HOA) demanded identification and demarcation of territorial limits of Dal Lake, according to them the mechanized de-weeding by weed-harvesters has not only accelerated the growth of useless weeds but has also endangered fragile marine life.
 
2009
In the beginning of March, LAWDA demolished around fifteen illegal structures around Chuntkul, a historic water channel through which water of Dal Lake is released into the river Jhelum.
 
2009
Mini Sewage Treatment Plants are being installed by the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA), to prevent the sewage from the houseboats fall into the lake. This gave relief to HOA.
 
2009
On March 11th, the HC acted on the inquiry report of Divisional Commission, Kashmir, which had named eight officials of the LAWDA responsible for allowing the illegal construction in the prohibited area. The court asked the government to immediately attach them. The court had asked the government to evolve a mechanism so that the solid and liquid waste of the houseboats was not discharged into the lake.
 
2009
Ministry of Environment and Forest released the first instalment of a sanctioned project under National Lake Conservation Program to conserve wetlands of Kashmir. A sum of Rs. 298 crores was released and the first phase of work involves development of sewerage system, removal of encroachment, hydraulic works, cleaning of channels, solid waste management, afforestation and conservation works in the catchment area of Dal Lake. The project involves acquisition of land and structures owned by the people within Dal Lake.
 
2009
Following concern expressed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court over the condition of the world famous Dal Lake, LAWDA launched a massive manual de-weeding to restore the pristine glory of the water body in April.
 
2009
In May, Jammu and Kashmir government has banned further registration of houseboats. The spring operation for removal of weed started.
 
2009
The Union Minister assured the citizens that there will be involvement of international agencies to conserve the lake. The government promised to spend more than $290 million cleaning up two iconic lakes in Kashmir: Dal and Wular, which have been polluted during decades of neglect.
 
2009
The Minister of State for Housing, Urban Development and Tourism, Nasir Aslam said that enforcement wing of the Lakes and Water Ways Development Authority (LAWDA) would be given more teeth to check encroachments in and around the Lake. He also suggested outsourcing of some components of the Dal Conservation and Rehabilitation project to speed up the restoration plan. The minister reviewed the work at Dal with a team of experts from IIT, Roorkee.
 
2009
As many as 14,000 plots was developed at Rakh-Arth in central Kashmir for a population of 80,000 Dal- Dwellers, affected due to massive drive launched by the Jammu and Kashmir government to restore the pristine glory of famed Dal Lake.
 
2009
Prime Minister also sanctioned a new grant of Rs. 356 crore for rehabilitation of Dal dwellers in October.
 
2010
Environmentalists warn that further delay in conservation measures will facilitate the weed -Azolla to spread across the water body and engulf it completely.
 
2010
Government of India grants Rs. 3.56 billion for Dal lake conservation.
 
2010
Unbridled growth of obnoxious weeds coupled with accumulation of tons of garbage has completely choked Chuntkul, the primary outflow channel of the Dal Lake.
 
2010
LAWDA launched a massive cleanliness drive to restore the glory of Chuntkul, an outflow channel of the famous Dal Lake, which is choked by garbage.
 
2011
In January, high level Committee appointed by the High Court which is monitoring the Dal Conservation cleared 65 rehabilitation cases paving way for acquisition of the 290 kanals of land and its conversion into water.

In a major move aimed at boosting up the Dal Conservation, the Government launched a massive drive to convert nearly 300 kanals of acquired land in the lake’s interiors into water.

 
2011
The Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Raman Bhalla reviewed the conservation measures undertaken for Dal in February.
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