NGT issues notice to J&K govt, Defence Ministry over setting up artillery firing range in Budgam

Army’s decision to establish an alternate firing range in Bajpathri had drawn strong protests from locals, tourism players and separatist organizations last month.

Written by AHSAN SOFI | Srinagar | Updated: January 30, 2016 1:48:08 pm

National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to the J&K government and Defence Ministry, over the proposed decision of setting up an artillery firing range in the Bajhpathri meadow of Yousmarg in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

A petition filed by a Budgam resident and social activist, Raja Muzzafar Bhat, had asked the NGT to direct the state government and defense ministry to not handover the meadow to Army for artillery practice as it would “damage the environment, forest and wildlife in the area.” NGT bench headed by its chairperson, Justice Swatantra Kumar, has accepted the plea.

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“The tribunal bench has issued notices to the state government and the ministry of defense on the issue of handing over Bajhpathri meadow to Army and also on the existence of live shells and mortars in Tosmaidan and their clearance from it. The next date of hearing is March 1st,” advocate Rahul Chowdhary, who is representing Bhat, told The Indian Express.

The petitioner has also asked the tribunal to direct the government to do an inspection of soil, ground water and surface of Tosmaidan meadow for any contamination and pollution. The firing range was used by the army as an artillery firing range before the expiration of the lease agreement in 2014.

Army’s decision to establish an alternate firing range in Bajpathri had drawn strong protests from locals, tourism players and separatist organizations last month. Bhat said the setting up of firing range at the meadow would adversely affect the local population and damage the eco-sensitive zone.

“Bajpathri is adjacent to famous tourist spot of Yousmarg and if firing and artillery practices are allowed in the area it will gravely impact the tourism activity and livelihood of the local population,” Bhat said.

“The area has a huge presence of wildlife and is also used as a grazing land by locals for their livestock. It will greatly damage the area and also affect the locals in a bad way,” he said.

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