Tribune News Service
Srinagar, February 18
The slow implementation of Centrally-sponsored conservation projects, which were designed to lease fresh life to the Dal Lake, is contributing to the steady degradation of the picturesque water body.
None of three key projects framed over the past decade to conserve the lake from dying has been completed so far despite multiple assurances over the years. The parts of these projects, which dealt with depopulating the lake and rehabilitating displaced population of lake dwellers, have an abysmal performance.
Series of factors, most of them borne out of administrative mismanagement, had led to failed deadlines of the three projects with a cost of more than Rs 1,000 crore and several crucial years of lost time during which the health of the lake had further deteriorated, officials said.
The Dal Lake, nestled in the north-east part of Srinagar city and spread over 21.1 sq km, is at the heart of the region’s tourism industry and is linked to the livelihood of thousands. The lake has suffered extensively over the past few decades due to an increasing encroachment, human interference and pollution and a failure of successive governments to implement remedies.
Under the first conservation and management programme costing Rs 298 crore and sanctioned under the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) in 2005, Rs 40 crore is yet to be expended.
The works done under the second conservation and management programme, costing Rs 356 crore and sanction under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme (PMRP) in 2010, are grim as only Rs 83.18 crore - the first instalment - have been released so far and a far little amount has been utilised.
“The release of the second instalment under the PMRP depends on the completion of work under the first instalment and that is yet to be completed. Out of Rs 83.18 crore released as the first instalment, only Rs 12.47 crore have been spent so far,” a senior official of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) told The Tribune.
The funds under the NLCP and the PMRP, meant for conservation purposes, were also to be used to finance acquisition of land from Dal dwellers in an attempt to depopulate the lake.
“Under the PMRP, 382 kanals have been acquired against a target of 14,992 kanals,” the officials said.
“The acquisition has hit a technical problem as the government has not posted officials with revenue background,” the official said. “The acquisition has become a burden for everyone but responsibility of none,” he added.
The official said the LAWDA, which had a rare change of guard recently, had now devised a phasing programme under which Rs 135 crore of PMRP funds would be utilised in 2015-16, Rs 116 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 61 crore in 2017-18. The project deadline ends in 2018, giving the LAWDA a short time-frame of three years to utilise the rest of the funds before they get lapsed.
The third project – Rakhi Arth, costing Rs 416 crore and funded by the state and Central governments since 2010, has been a major failure so far, getting entangled in administrative hiccups.
The Rakhi Arth programme, which was formulated to rehabilitate lake dweller to a location on the outskirts of the city, has, however, been dismal till date as only Rs 75.12 crore have been spent so far and the proposed residential colony is still a marshy swathe.
The officials at LAWDA said the administrative hiccups emerged due to the communication gaps between various government departments which were directly and indirectly associated with the Rakhi Arth project. “The work to fill the marsh at the Rakhi Arth had remained suspended from June 2013 to November 2014 due to an embargo by the district administration,” the official said.
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