Clamour grows for CBI probe into Save Dal Lake project

Worst-Case Scenario: Activists warn ecosystems in the lake on the verge of extinction

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Clamour grows for CBI probe into Save Dal Lake project
A Kashmiri boatman clears snow from shikara boats near a frozen portion of Dal Lake after snowfall in Srinagar

Clamour is growing for a CBI probe into the Rs 759-crore 'Save Dal Lake' project in Jammu and Kashmir.

Leading the charge for the probe is newly-elected Mayor of Srinagar Junaid Azim Mattu, who has questioned the money spent on the ambitious project for over 14 years.

"Rs 759 crore! That's the amount spent/allocated for Dal Lake restoration over a course of 16 years. And the lake continues to deteriorate for every single one of these successive years. If this doesn't merit a CBI probe, what does? Where has this money gone?" Mattu said.

Increasing habitation, lack of waste management, massive sewerage flow and growing human pressure is silently killing the world famous lake.

Waking up to the crisis, the Jammu and Kashmir government launched 'Save Dal Project' to conserve the lake in 2005.

There were three components of the project — conservation, land acquisition and rehabilitation of Dal dwellers. Under the project, the Rs 298.76 crore conservation and Rs 356.30 crore land acquisition part was to be funded by Centre.

Documents of Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) accessed by DNA reveal that under the Conservation and Management Plan for Dal-Nigeen Lake, the Centre released Rs 295.55 crore and Rs 280.80 crore stands spent till October 2018.

"Almost all interventions detailed in the conservation plan have been accomplished. To name a few: Five Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) with a capacity to treat 36.1 MLD of sewage per day have been commissioned. Total length of trunk sewers laid is 23.94 kms. The authority has laid lateral/secondary sewers of a total length of 73.64 kms and work is in progress for the rest 4.158 kms. Remodelling of around 36.363-km of drains has been completed," said an officer

Claims notwithstanding, environmentalists have pressed the alarm button saying if the five basins of Dal Lake are not immediately saved, they will vanish in the next four years.

"Dal Lake is facing a worst-case scenario. They have made a joke out of the five basins – Brari Nambal lagoon, Gilsar, Khushalsar, Anchar and Tailbal basin. The money which was to be spent on these basins was spent on Boulevard lighting and cosmetic cleaning. Five ecosystems are on the verge of extinction unless action is taken in the next three to four years," said Nadeem Qadri, noted environment lawyer, who is the co-convenor of Environmental Policy Group

Under the Rs 356.30-crore land acquisition plan, only Rs 83.10 crore has been released, of which, Rs 60.32 crore has been spent until October 2018. Under the Rs 416.72-crore rehabilitation project, Rs 150.53 crore has been released and Rs 150.12 crore has been spent.

Under the acquisition plan, the government has to acquire the property of Dal dwellers since they have property rights on 20,000 kanals (20 kanals form one hectare) of the lake.

"The area of Dal lake measures 49,000 kanals. Dal dwellers have property rights to over 20,000 kanals. The government has fixed the rate at which this property will be acquired. Similarly, a colony has to be developed in Rakh-i-Arth in three phases. In the first phase, 4,600 plots have been developed, of which 3,000 have been completed," said an officer.

The Project

J&K government launched the ‘Save Dal Project’ to conserve the lake in 2005. There are 3 components of the project — conservation, land acquisition and rehabilitation of Dal dwellers. Under the project, the Rs 298.76-crore conservation and Rs 356.30-crore land acquisition part was to be funded by Centre

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