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Who deprived J&K of Ranjit Sagar Dam Reservoir?

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Who deprived J&K of Ranjit Sagar Dam Reservoir?

By Bhushan Parimoo

Call it either Rip Van Winkles Slumber or Bureaucratic Apathy? In both cases unaccountability has become a premium for denying emergence of an enchanting deep blue crystal-clear water body in 2000.

Imagine a breathtaking sheet of water far and wide covering 144 Sq kms (22 kms in length and 7 kms in width). Serene placid water as far as eyes takes to unending shore kissing all the time the boundaries of three states and , and Himachal Pradesh.  With a catchment area of 6086 sq. Km well guarded by mountain range clothed with green delicious forest- a home of varied and valuable flora and fauna.

In the lap of Shivaliks at Kathua district conceived an imaginative and ambitious idea to develop it on scientific lines a modern envious wetland under National Wetland Reserve clubbing it with Thein Conservation Reserve. This huge water body was to form by constructing a barrier across river Ravi at an ideal gorge section near village Thien of J&K to harness its water to generate Hydroelectricity.

Govt. of India agreed in principle to the proposal of funding the project under Centrally Sponsored Schemes subjected to formulation of a consolidated comprehensive Management Action Plan in agreement jointly by the three states involved for the development of the Wetland.

The same was required to be submitted to GOI for approval so as to make available funds as per the approved Plan. Govt of India in anticipation declared it as Ranjit Sagar Dam Reservoir and the conceived project was brought under National Wetland conservation programme and even some claimed it is recognized by Ramsar.

Wetland Department of Wildlife Protection J&K has been made a nodal agency to coordinate and submit a Joint Action Plan because of it being a major stake holder. The fact is that J&K controls 62% area of the reservoir followed by Punjab 22% and Himachal Pradesh of the remaining one. Here project met its nemesis and never saw the dawn to start on as it became victim of bureaucratic dementia.

Principle of out of mind out of site resulted in consigning the proposal under the heaps of discarded files.

Administrative inefficiency was at its best and played to the gallery so as to secure at least two years tenure at one place. Like a personal fiefdom, the Department of Forests frequently makes changes at Minister's whims and fancy and post even three step juniors over the head of the senior officers. Even those who hardly know job are given assignments which proved detrimental to the assignment.

Procedures thrown to wind by no regular diarizing, no track of the correspondence and no quarterly, half yearly and yearly review was founded in this regard.

Nobody knew about it in general that Project would have died uncared in hibernation has this writer not come to know about it. During Save Tawi Campaign in October 2011, a word was conveyed to take up this issue as well. The message was cryptic and vague but could not be summarily dismissed. Inquest started as uphill task giving frustrating anxiety moments in pursuit.  Pleading consistently from pillar to post with the authorities of JK Wildlife Department drew us blank. But hoping against the hope kept us going.  It was in January 2012 after 30 years of dilly dallying, the Thein Conservation was handed over to Wildlife Protection Department.

On a visit to the area, a Wildlife Range Officer was in affirmative that years back he had heard of such a proposal. A bit of cajoling coupled with pleading, a got fished out from the deep pool of discarded correspondences.  And skeletons stared tumbling out one after another. A letter bearing number 233.36/CWKW/CJDL Dated 25th of November 2004 from then Chief Wildlife Protection Warden of the state Dr CM Seth to Dr S. Kaul, the then secretary to Ministry of Environment and Ecology, Government of India for incorporating the proposed Management Action Plan for Thein/Rangit Sagar Wetland Reserve in the Centrally Sponsored Scheme which they had agreed to in Principle. This spilled the beans and feigning ignorance was belied.

To uneasiness of the concerned, a joint meeting of the representatives said to have been held at Jammu wherein two-day deliberation took place on 19th and 29th of January 2006 and modalities for Action Plan was arrived at. In the month of November 2006, a 5-year Action Plan was framed but it appears individually and for consolidation before submitting the same. As desired by Government of India, Panjab got framed two proposal costing 414.19 crores and 5.35 crores, first by Wildlife Department and Second one for soil conservation side. Himachel Pradesh projected required amount 2.1 crores and J&K state 8.20 crores.

Since then nothing heard. Matter was brought to the notice of Sh AK Singh the then Chief Wildlife Warden J&K. He assured like a seasoned bureaucrat. Barring a letter or two nothing came out. From the period of Dr CM Seth till present incumbent Sh Suresh Chugh, state had in between half a dozen officers at the helm of affairs all competent. In  a  ascending order Sh Tiwari, Sh Shirivastva, Sh PC Kapoor, Sh Sh AK Singh, Sh Abdul Razak and Sh Deepak Khanna. Why joint meeting were not got materialized by any one of them. All three concerned Chief Wardens were at stone's throw to each other. Modern Gadgets, video conferencing etc were not resorted to.

In other case what stopped JK Warden the nodal officer not to bring it in to the notice of his superiors. Beside they could have taken public Representatives into the confidence for such a prestigious project. No one heard it to be discussed in the annual District Development cum meetings which were often chaired by the Chief Minister for the intervention to see this project through. In a decade and four years they must have flew on government exchequer about 150 times but never thought it concerning to ask for the status of the project.

Irony is there were three state cadre forest officers at the helm of affairs in the ministry at center. Sh A.K Srivastva, Sh Jagdish Kehwan and Sh Ranjan. Beside this area has been represented time to time by veteran leaders like Sh Ghulan Nabi Azad, Ch Lal Singh and now Dr Jatinder Singh.

Interestingly, the present Forest Minister is Ch Lal Sigh. Then where the fault lies- Rip Van Winkles Slumber or Bureaucratic Apathy? Teeming youth of the area demand a judicial probe to fix responsibility to delay and denial for years the opportunities to the unemployed youth which they call a criminal conspiracy at whose behest.

(The writer is Environmental Activist and can be reached at blparimoo@gmail.com)

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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