Srinagar: The campaign to save Doodh Ganga has entered into execution phase. The newly posted Principal Secretary to J&K Govt Housing & Urban Development Department (HUDD) Mr Prashant Goyal assured the bench of Justice Sudhir Aggarwal (Judicial Member) and Dr A Senthil Vel (Expert Member) that within 2 months works would be executed to restore this waterbody which is the source of drinking water for more than 7 lakh people in Srinagar’s uptown and some parts of district Budgam as well. The case regarding Doodh Ganga’s restoration was listed for hearing before the NGT May 24th.
Within 4 days it was again listed for hearing on May 29th and on May 30th the case was again heard by the NGT bench. In addition to Principal Secretary HUDD , Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation Athar Aamir Khan, Director ULB Kashmir Muthara Masoom , Public Law Officer Rural Dev & Panchayati Raj Department Paramjeet Singh , Chief Engineer UEED Kashmir Naseer A Kakroo, DC Budgam Akshay Labroo , Regional Director Pollution Control Committee Rafi Bhat, Director Geology & Mining JK Govt Om Prakash Baghat and District Mineral Officer Budgam Zulfiqar Mohammad were also present during the hearing. The NGT bench said that it was not satisfied with the working of J&K Government on account of controlling pollution and illegal riverbed mining in Doodh Ganga. The tribunal gave J&K Government 2 months time to implement its previous directions as Principal Secretary Housing & Urban Development Department sought some time. When the Hon’ble Tribunal asked him how much time he needed , the officer replied “I month” , the NGT bench instead granted him 2 months.
Background of the case
This author was forced to seek intervention of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) around 2 years back as liquid waste, and solid waste continued to pollute Doodh Ganga from Branwar in Budgam to Barzulla in Srinagar city, is around 35 km long stretch. The pollution due to pesticides and illegal Riverbed Mining is also posing a great threat to it. Around 10 to 15 years back the Doodh Ganga was polluted in Srinagar municipal limits only , now one can see this stream has been polluted in all the rural areas which come on its way as people in the villages dump their solid waste into it. Even hazardous waste like medical waste , used sanitary napkins & diapers are also thrown into it. Many drains open into the Doodh Ganga and then the same water is lifted at Kralpora by PHE Jal Shakti and supplied to 8 lakh population in Srinagar’s uptown and some areas in Budgam after filtration, sedimentation and gasification. Can these things make this water safe for drinking?
I tried my best to impress upon the authorities to take appropriate measures to clear waste both in urban and rural areas located on the banks of this stream. In Srinagar city area several water pumping stations have been set up on the banks of Doodh Ganga which pump not only waste water into this waterbody but also untreated sewage and other kids of liquid waste, excrement is also pumped into the Doodh Ganga in open violation of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974.
SMC , ULB K intervene
After the May 24th case hearing at NGT, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation , Director Urban Local Bodies Kashmir (ULB-K) and DC Budgam made an on-spot visit to Doodh Ganga. There is an old saying that where there is a will there’s a way. Srinagar Municipal Corporation’s jurisdiction ends near the Railway bridge in Bagh e Mehtab Srinagar. The localities like Mochwa, Kralpora, Gopalpora or Wathoora which are mere 2 to 5 km from Bagh e Mehtab don’t get any sanitation service and with the result a large number of people dump their waste around the banks of Doodh Ganga. These banks have turned into trash collection points and tons of legacy waste is lying there.
The Commissioner SMC & DC Budgam made a personal visit to the huge trash site near Doodh Ganga in Kralpora on May 25th soon, the very next day of case hearing. This author who is also the petitioner in this case also accompanied them. They decided to get it cleared. A team of around 80 sanitation workers came to the site on Friday May 26th. The team led by Zonal Sanitation Officer Bashir Ahmad Lone got the waste cleared. Almost 70 % of the waste was cleared from Kralpora bridge but more needs to be done as people need regular sanitation service. On May 27th Director ULB Kashmir Mutharra Masoom also visited Chadoora town and its surrounding villages and she also got trash cleared even from rural areas which don’t fall under jurisdiction of Chadoora Municipality, but as a mark of goodwill she got the waste cleared. The personal visit of SMC Commissioner , DC Budgam, Director ULB Kashmir was impactful & I wish they continue to visit Doodh Ganga and monitor its restoration as ordered by Hon’ble NGT.
Landfills, MRF at block level
Providing waste collection service at doorsteps is no more a prerogative of people living in cities or towns. Now people in rural areas are entitled for these services as well under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G). The Govt has failed to take up the rural waste management programme seriously. Segregation Sheds have been constructed at village level at an estimated cost of Rs 3.50 lakhs/ shed but are they operational I want to ask the Govt ? Instead the Govt should have set up one or two small sanitary landfills at block level by clubbing this money. For Rs 40 to 50 lakhs one or two small sanitary landfill sites could have easily been set up, but unfortunately the plans come from top in J&K instead of brainstorming about it in Gram Sabha meetings. Had there been one or two sanitary landfills in each block, the BDOs could have been able to give sanitation service to the entire population of the block as our RDD blocks are not so big.On an average 10 to 15 village panchayats constitute one RDD block and it is not challenging to have one material recovery facility (MRF) and one sanitary landfill site in each block. Why isn’t the Rural Development Department taking up rural waste management work in the villages located around Doodh Ganga under SBM Gramin ppase II ? I would be taking up this issue with NGT through a written submission as lots of funds are already available with the Govt. The RDD instead purchased thousands of costly steel trash bins. Are they useful? Who is clearing them on a regular basis ? There is complete confusion.
There is a need for large scale Information, Education and Communication -IEC programmes to be launched in the entire stretch of Doodh Ganga from Branwar to Barzulla. We need to train & sensitize all the imams and religious leaders in these areas plus public spirited citizens. Already the Govt has agreed to spend Rs 149 crores on setting up sewerage treatment plants -STPs on Doodh Ganga. The work on this should be taken up within 2 months of time. The areas located near SMCs jurisdiction like Mochwa, Kralpora & Gopalpora must get sanitation service from Srinagar Municipal Corporation-SMC. The other areas like Wathoora, Hanjigund, Batpora which are located near Chadoora town must get service from Chadoora Municipal Committee. The residential colonies & habitations located around Doodh Ganga must be connected with small STPs that should be set up at multiple locations like Barzulla, Natipora, Chanapora, Mochwa, Kralpora, Gopalpora ,Wathoora, Hanjigund and Chadoora town. Legacy waste be collected and treated. All the localities around Doodh Ganga must get the facility of door to door collection of waste. Those households who have ½ kanal (2722 square feet) or more land around their house must be asked to start home composting of food & other biodegradable waste. The NGOs can be involved to handhold and guide such families. CCTVs be installed around all the Mining Blocks and bridges on Doodh Ganga to check illegal mining and garbage dumping. The prosecutors should be taken to task, penalized or even jailed for any violation once the Govt starts giving door to door sanitation service. This year world environment day also calls upon Govt’s and people to act to control the plastic pollution. I am sure with NGTs monitoring we would be able to save Doodh Ganga which is not only a source of drinking water for 8 lakh population but it irrigates our 50,000 hectares of agriculture land as well in Srinagar and Budgam districts.