High Court seeks details of Wullar restoration funds

‘Public money has to be utilized for the purpose for which it is meant’

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday granted two weeks to Wular Conservation Management Authority (WUCMA) to file comprehensive plan on viability of utilization of funds for restoration of freshwater lake, Wular, in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
A division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar passed the direction after perusing status report filed by Director, Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, GoI.
The report reveals that Rs 30 crore have been released to J&K government for conservation of the lake.  The status report filed by Chief Executive Director WUCMA detailing expenditure till March-end 2014 reveals that out of Rs 30 crore, the Authority utilized Rs 21.2703 crore and the balance amount of Rs 8.5297 crore has been got revalidated for the current financial year.
In this way, according to the report for the current financial year, Rs 38.5297 are available for the development of the lake.
Advocate General, M I Qadri, apprised the court of the site plan of three critical points where the River Jhelum enter the Wular Lake along with huge amount of silt. He identified Naz Nallah in village Sadurkote, Baniyar and Kachi-Karanganch as the critical points. The division bench said it had vague answers when it asked certain questions to the officers of WUCMA who were present in the court as to how the amount would be spent to achieve the result which is contemplated under the plan to save the lake. The court said they could not make it clear whether such process would be temporary or it will achieve some enduring results. “As there is no satisfactory answer available, therefore we grant time to respondents to file a comprehensive plan so that we may examine the utilization of funds in its proper direction,” the division bench said. Seeking the report within two weeks, it said public money has to be utilized for the purpose for which it is meant. Senior Counsel and Amicus Curie, Z A Shah, suggested that the water bodies particularly in Kashmir could be interconnected so that there may be one unified plan to utilize and beautify these water bodies.
The court however said the central government would be required to assist the state authorities so that the funds are properly utilized.

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