With Srinagar’s Dal Lake struggling for survival due to its biological load from within threatening its longevity, the J&K High Court has constituted a “committee of experts” to ascertain the status of the iconic water body and to provide solutions necessary for its restoration, maintenance and preservation. However, the committee has held four meetings since October 16 — all in the national capital — and the state exchequer, as per sources, owes the experts Rs 35 lakh so far.
The Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, the overseeing body concerning the lake, has no budgetary allocations for third party evaluations or external committees.
The High Court order, which was passed on September 18, noted that the Central government had spent close to Rs 400 crore on the lake over the past 15 years without any tangible results.
Former Delhi Metro Rail Corporation chairperson E Sreedharan, former Kerala additional chief secretary Nivedita Haran, and environmentalist M C Mehta were appointed as members to this committee. However, in October, Sreedharan recused himself from the committee, citing health reasons. In his place, DMRC managing director Mangu Singh was appointed.
The members of the committee, as per the court order, “shall be paid an initial amount of Rs 5 lakh each towards reading and preparation charges”. Additionally, for each “physical” meeting conducted by them, members of the committee will be paid Rs 1 lakh, and for “deliberations conducted using electronic mode”, the committee members will receive Rs 50,000.
The members of the committee are also entitled to airfare and conveyance charges equivalent to the amount which is accorded to a secretary, of the Government of India.
“The Chief Secretary shall direct availability of proper meeting place for the members of the committee in Srinagar, Delhi, Kerala, or any other place desired by the committee,” the order directs.
Nivedita Haran said, “We tried visiting the lake (on two occasions) but on both days, there was a strike and thus movement in Srinagar was restricted.” Quoting reports, she added that the lake has “about 30 to 50 years to survive” and the committee “will study gamut of issues relating to pollution, waste management, cleanliness and conservation of the lake, along with the rehabilitation of relocated families”.
While ordering the constitution of the committee, J&K High Court Chief Justice Geeta Mittal had stated that immediate measures are necessary before the critical condition of the lake is “rendered hopeless”. She said the record of the case suggests that local experts “are unable to contain the malaise that besets the lake. It is therefore, necessary to have an expert committee.”