Dumping of solid waste destroying lakes’ ecology

Sumit Hakhoo
Indiatimesworld News Service
Jammu, September 23

The environmentally fragile Shivalik hills around two ancient lakes — Mansar and Surinsar in Samba district — are heading for ecological disaster as tonnes of solid waste generated annually is dumped in forest areas.

The failure of the Surinsar-Mansar Development Authority (SDMA), established in 2006 to identify designated sites for waste disposal and construct Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs), is slowly destroying the lake ecology in one of the beautiful mountain ranges after the Himalayas in the Indian subcontinent.

Sources said the Forest Department, Wildlife Department and SMDA — three agencies having jurisdiction over the water bodies — are at loggerheads, with the Forest Department repeatedly protesting against the dumping of solid waste at various sites. In recent years, a water body on one of the sites listed in the Ramsar convention is under tremendous pressure.

“We visited Compartment 43-D of the Mahoregarh range under the territorial forest division Samba and found around six sites at Bindu Pada, a few km ahead on the Mansar-Samba-Dhar bypass road, where solid waste was being dumped,” said Bhushan Parimoo, president of the Environment Awareness Forum.

100 sq km of forested land and 33 villages fall under the authority, which was established to create infrastructure to attract tourists. About a million tourists and pilgrims visited the lake, revered by Hindus, during 2017-18.

Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Samba, Abhinav Ramyotra said they had formally taken up the issue with the SDMA. “We are hopeful that proper procedure will be followed for the disposal of the waste,” Ramyotra said.

The lakes fall within Surinsar-Mansar Wildlife Sanctuary, situated between the Shivalik and Jandhra ranges touching Udhampur, Samba and Jammu district and have been brought under the National Wetland Conservation Programme.

While talking to The Tribune, CEO, SDMA, Nagendra Jamwal said they gave sanitation contract to private parties and they had to ensure that waste was segregated. “No specific spot has been designated but the waste is segregated and only bio-degradable one is dumped. There are clear directions that plastic waste should not be thrown.”

On the influx of untreated sewage in lakes, Jamwal said, “We have submitted a plan to the government for the construction of five mini-STPs and it is at final stages of approval.”