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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board to fund eco-awareness-cum-conservation campaigns; afforestation: Governor
Pilot treatment projects at Baltal, Nunwan on anvil

Srinagar, March 11– Observing that the preservation of ecology is a fundamental challenge, Governor, Mr. N. N. Vohra, today said that the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board shall take a firm initiative in funding eco-awareness-cum-conservation campaigns and supplementing the afforestation programmes in selected areas.

Attaching immense significance to the first meeting of the Environment Sub-Committee of the Board, which met here this morning, the Governor indicated that time-bound initiatives will be taken to secure the involvement of schoolchildren in carrying out plantation drives under the Social Forestry Programme and holding of debates and essay competitions in all the regions of Jammu and Kashmir to enlarge awareness of the urgent need for preserving environment. He also laid emphasis on creating adequate awareness on this vital issue among the people, particularly the tourists and the pilgrims, through screening of documentaries, distribution of pamphlets, installation of hoardings on the National Highway from Jammu to Srinagar etc.

The Governor reiterated the Shrine Board’s commitment to the preservation of aesthetic and ecological aspects of Shri Amarnathji Yatra and directed the Chief Executive Officer, SASB, Mr. B. B. Vyas, to set apart a corpus fund so that the lack of resources is not a constraint in the implementation of such measures.

Meanwhile, the Sub-Committee on Environment recommended that early action shall be taken to launch two Pilot Projects for treating the waste water and sewage through a host of innovative and organic measures for waste disposal involving Micro-organism based technology for decomposition, temporary Baffle Reactors and Reedbeds at the Nunwan and Baltal Base Camps during the ensuing Yatra.

The Chairperson of the Sub-Committee, Dr. Sunita Narain said that these technological measures would be the first of their kind in the country to be used on a large scale at high-altitude Camping sites. The Governor, as Chairman of the Shri Board, observed that urgent action shall be taken on this recommendation.

The meeting took several other decisions for maintaining and preserving the environment and ecology in the Pahalgam and Baltal axis of the Yatra, which, inter alia, include setting up of plastic shedders for disposal of plastic bottles and other plastic materials, segregation of waste materials for appropriate treatment, putting in place a Monitoring Protocol for checking the quality of treated effluents flowing into the water bodies etc. The Sub-Committee recommended that certain conditions should be imposed on the establishment of Langars by non-Governmental Organisations for ensuring high standards of cleanliness, sanitation, hygiene, including the segregation of garbage and minimising the use of plastic materials. It was decided that the Sub-Committee shall regularly monitor the implementation of the Action Plan formulated in this regard.

The Environment Sub-Committee, which had undertaken an aerial survey of the Holy Cave yesterday, stressed the need for effectively dealing with the increased effects of climate change on the glaciers and the area of the Shrine. For this purpose, efforts would be made to minimise the human interference aspect by exploring the possibility of relocating the Helipads and other activities which take place close to the vicinity of the Holy Cave.

It is to be recalled that the in its very first meeting, the reconstituted SASB had constituted a Sub-Committee for formulating and effectively implementing viable strategies to identify the ecological issues in the Yatra area and suggesting ways to monitor and safeguard the environment of the region, to review and recommend possible technologies suitable for sewage and waste management, keeping in view the altitude, gradient and temperature, to mitigate pollution and to provide hygiene and convenience to pilgrims and to review and recommend ways of sustainable management of the region, by way of a comprehensive “Environment Protection Plan”, particularly through building of local capacities and partnerships for effective implementation of the action plan, leading to better management of the environment of the region.

In its first meeting held here today at the Raj Bhawan, the Environment Sub-Committee also discussed various other facets of the environmental concerns of Shri Amarnathji Yatra, which, inter alia, included the quantification of solid wastes, their composition management and disposal etc; inventory of the food centres established during the Yatra and solid waste assessment thereof; assessment of liquid effluent generation, source, quantification; establishment of temporary Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) at various sites etc.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Dr. Ved Kumari Ghai and Mr. B. B. Vyas, Members of the Sub-Committee and besides, by Mr. Masud Samoon, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir; Dr. C. M. Seth, Chairman, J&K State Pollution Control Board; Mr. Shaffat Ahmad, Chief Conservator of Forests, Kashmir; Mr. A. K. Srivastava, Chief Wildlife Warden; Mr. Mohammad Saleem, Joint Director, Tourism, Kashmir; Col. A. S. Shekhawat, Principal, Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering, Pahalgam; Mr. Madan Mantoo, Additional CEO, SASB; Mr. Abdul Rashid Parrey, Chief Executive Officer, Pahalgam Development Authority; Mr. Javed Bakshi, Chief Executive Officer, Sonamarg Development Authority; Mr. S. D. Kasana, Executive Engineer, UEED; Mr. Mohammad Shaffi Kakroo, Deputy Director, Local Bodies, Kashmir.

The meeting was also attended by Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beig, President INTACH, Jammu and Kashmir, and Prof. Shakeel Ahmad Remshoo, Department of Geology and Geo-Physics, University of Kashmir.

Source: Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Department of Information, Press Note, Mar. 11, 2009
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