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Global warming an alien term in Kashmir: Degradation goes on unabated
Environmental degradation in Jammu and Kashmir goes on unabated despite State Pollution Control Board and other pollution control check centres in place. The tragedy is leading to persistently fast melting of glaciers and high risk of earthquakes.
 global warming has emerged as one of the most important environmental issues ever confronted by the human race. It compelled world leaders, including Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh to join hands at the 33rd G-8 Summit in Berlin in June this year. However, environmental degradation in varied forms goes on unabated in Jammu and Kashmir.
Furthermore, terms like global warming, ozone layer depletion and greenhouse gases, which have gravely disturbed heat and radiation balance of earth’s atmosphere, appear to be alien to people at the helm of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir.
Former head of department in Environmental Sciences, Jammu University, Prof SP Singh Dutta said, “Global warming and ozone layer depletion have resulted into frequent climatic changes in the form of acid rains, lesser snowfall in mountains and fluctuating and sometimes scarce rains during monsoons.”
“Consequently, glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir are now melting at a faster pace, threatening the survival of habitations in low lying areas,” said Prof Dutta, adding, “with depletion in the ozone layer, the incoming ultra violet rays and outgoing infra-red rays have disturbed heat and radiation balance of the earth to certain extent.”
Tracing the root cause of global warming to rapid deforestation and rampant use of fossil fuels as the source of energy, Prof Dutta said, “Remedy lies in afforestation and adopting solar, nuclear, hydro-power, wind and geo-thermal energies in place of fossil fuels.”
However, it may not be out of place to mention here that over 30,000 green trees had come under the axe last year for widening the Kunjwani-Sidhra bypass road and countless trees were also felled under four-lane project of NHAI right from Lakhanpur to Jammu.
Prof Dutta further said, “If countries, both developed and developing, fail to reconcile now, the global warming could lead to warmer climate in the next century and the effects would be mostly adverse.”
Talking about emission of greenhouse gases, including the major component CO2, Prof Dutta said, “Haphazard industrialisation in Jammu and Kashmir in the backdrop of faulty checks has been adding to emission of greenhouse gases. For instance, ever increasing number of automobiles continues to spew carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and lead, not only polluting the air but also disturbing the heat and radiation balance of earth’s atmosphere.”
“Per capita number of vehicles have increased manifold in Jammu in particular and the whole state in general, and they have been adding to air pollution without any serious exercise by the government to check emissions of greenhouse gases,” he said.
Citing another instance of environmental degradation in Jammu, he said, “In 1972 Gadigarh Nallah had 42 species of fishes, three of prawns, one of crab, five of tortoises and had a wide diversity of flora and fauna, but today it has become an industrial drain because the effluents contaminating the water have wiped out aquatic life.”
An environment researcher at the Jammu University dealing with air pollution in the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir said, “Even though SPM (Suspended Particulate Matter) in the forms of oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide are touching permissible limits of 200 SPM but they get dispersed because of the topography.”
In this context, however, she questioned the veracity of government approved private pollution checking centres set up for automobiles, both commercial and private.
She said, “These pollution checking centers issue certificates in return for money to vehicle owners little bothering about harmful emissions.”
Similarly, a senior official in the Jammu and Kashmir State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) expressed concerns over increasing air and water pollution in Jammu and other parts of the region where industrial estates have been set up.
He said, “Haphazard industrialization in the wake of faulty checks of emissions and effluents by SPCB have been degrading environment across Jammu region.”
“Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines say that data of an air pollution monitoring station should be sent to it after every 24 hours but air and bio monitoring laboratories in SPCB till date have not functioned leave aside submitting the data to the CPCB,” said sources.
He said, “Chemicals for checking air pollutants like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide in the SPM are not available with the scientists in SPCB,” adding “only paper work is being done.”
“Similarly, NOC from SPCB for setting up industrial units is just an eyewash as guidelines are violated with impunity,” he said adding “under rules every industrial unit in the state has to submit a self monitoring report to SPCB after every six months, which again has no veracity as private testing laboratories issue these reports in return for money.”
He said, “Punjab government, which too had been entertaining such self monitoring reports issued by different private testing laboratories to industrial units, has recently banned the practice saying that only reports issued either by Thapar Institute Delhi or Sri Ram Laboratory Delhi or Punjab State Pollution Control Board would be considered valid.”
Water pollution too reflects a grim picture as far as Jammu region is concerned.
He said, “Under Monitoring of Indian National Aquatic Resources (MINAR) programme, SPCB has to submit quarterly reports of rivers, lakes and other water bodies to CPCB.”
“Though Jammu and Kashmir SPCB had established two monitoring stations, one each in Tawi River and beneath the Akhnoor Bridge in Chenab River, but they had been closed since1997 and the practice of sending quarterly report was resumed from May 2004,” he added.
“Seven such monitoring stations were also established in Jhelum River, Wullar Lake, Dal Lake and other water bodies in valley but data on quarterly basis was seldom sent to the CPCB,” he said.
“With around 23 channels of waste discharge continuing to flow directly or indirectly into Tawi River from Kishenpur Manwal right up to Makwal, the river water has been polluted,” he said, adding “waste discharge of Regional Research Laboratory still flow into Tawi River.”
He said, “The content of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) in one litre of water should be 6 mg but Tawi River water has 1.3 to 1.4 mg DO per liter.”
“Likewise, Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) level should not be less than 2 mg per litre but it fluctuates from 8 mg per litre to 40 mg per litre in Tawi River,” he said, adding “Similarly, river waters of Chenab in Akhnoor, Basantar in Samba, Ujh in Kathua and Devika in Udhampur have been found polluted in terms of two main parameters of DO and BOD contents.”
He further said, “Similarly, chemical dozing of sewage treatment plant of Government Medical College in Jammu is improper, while ASCOMS on the outskirts of Jammu has a sewage treatment plant but against the parameters.”
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