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Foul Smell of Mismanagement: Who owns Solid Waste Management in Gulmarg?

As climate activists plan to take matter to top environmental court, will NGT intervene in Gulmarg's Waste Woes?

By Jahangir Sofi
New Update
Gulmarg solid waste management

As climate activists plan to take matter to top environmental court, will NGT intervene in Gulmarg's Waste Woes?

  • Amid the blame game, the first and second part of our investigative series on solid waste management at the world-famous ski destination Gulmarg highlighted the “poor scientific” approach towards garbage disposal and the “questionable” functioning of the solid waste management plant (SWMP).
  • The climate activists criticize the authorities' approach as merely "cosmetic," arguing that without any tangible progress, they are now intending to bring the matter to the attention of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in order to address the pressing waste management issues.
  • The third and final part of this investigative series sheds light on the pressing concerns surrounding the ownership of solid waste management in Gulmarg. The presence of scattered and accumulated garbage mounds not only poses a grave threat to the Eco-Sensitive Zone in the area but also raises alarm among whistleblowers who perceive the garbage dumping site as a significant danger to the tourists visiting Gulmarg.

They state that unauthorized, unscientific dumping of garbage is emanating foul smell and is attracting huge stray canine populations, and wild animals including black bears and leopards.

Amid brewing concerns of poor waste management operations at Gulmarg, Mathoora Masoom, the director of Urban Local Bodies in Kashmir, states that Gulmarg is not just an urban area but also includes rural areas, maintaining that their department is only mandated for cleaning of areas falling under the urban zone in the area.

Stating that her department has already raised the issue with the top administration, she told Ground Report,

“Urban local bodies are only concerned about the urban areas as the entire Gulmarg does not fall under the urban area and we are only supporting staff for collection of garbage and the SWMP belongs to GDA, but we have still written to our top administration about the issue”.

Notably, after the CEO of GDA was transferred recently, the responsibility for operations at GDA was given to the current director of tourism in Kashmir. Ground Report attempted to contact him for an update on the status of solid waste management and the functionality of the Solid Waste Management Plant (SWMP) in Gulmarg. Unfortunately, despite multiple attempts, the director stated to be busy in "meetings", whenever this correspondent called. As and when he responds, the story will be updated with his comment.

Surprisingly, a series of communications from independent environmental and governmental departments called attention to the "non-functionality" of the SWMP plant and requested the GDA to remove the dispersed piles of trash at the Gulmarg’s dumping site.

Locals and environmental activists assert that despite numerous communications and reminders to GDA, little to no significant improvement was witnessed in addressing the solid waste and garbage problems plaguing the region.

GDA in a responsive communication a copy of which also lies with Ground Report, has termed one of the communications of the local Municipal body regarding the waste management as “misleading”, saying the concerned officer was shying away from his basic responsibilities, and further saying that he was trying to "cover-up” his “failures”.

According to the letter, a senior officer at the Municipal Committee Tangmarg/ Gulmarg was trying to cover up his “failures” by not creating any such waste treatment facility in and around Gulmarg.

To get more clarity on the management of solid waste at Gulmarg, Ground Report spoke to the Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Development Authority Gulmarg, Ghulam Geelani Zargar, who now stands transferred and is posted as CEO to a different tourism development authority.

At the time when Zargar was CEO of GDA, he said that although their department is not mandated for waste management, but whatever they are doing is on a “volunteer” basis, and making a claim that the solid waste management plant is fully functional, thereby refuting it’s reports of non-functionality, but added that occasional “technical snags” make a temporary halt to plant.

Zragar told Ground Report that the role of the Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) is to get the area “notified” and then follow subsequent plans for it’s development as per the proposed master plan.

Zargar however acknowledged that the rapid increase in the tourist arrivals at Gulmarg is also inviting challenges in terms of garbage generation, but he states that in place of them, it is the municipal committee Tangmarg/Gulmarg that is responsible for the garbage collection in the area.

He added that waste management including collection, it's scientific disposal was the basic prerogative of the municipal committee of Gulmarg.

Referring to the waste management rules, especially rule 11, he said that it is the responsibility of the municipal Committee to form a policy for waste management.

Zargar adds that although they are not mandated for the cleanliness of the area, their department always comes to the “rescue” for the overall development of the area. 

He also refuted the claims that garbage is being dumped in the forest area.

According to a letter issued by Zargar, the municipal committee Gulmarg has been collecting the sanitation fee from hotels/restaurants/hutments at Gulmarg since last so many years and has collected tens of crores of rupees and is under the “obligation” to collect and dispose of the waste scientifically. 

Zargar in the letter states that the GDA has established a Solid Waste Management Plant for the treatment of waste generated for the assets owned by GDA like huts and parks for which the capacity was sufficient. 

The letter further states that the municipal committee collecting waste from hotels, restaurants and hutments (after charging sanitation fee from them) dump the waste into the dump yard of the waste plant of GDA, saying that was putting extra pressure on their plant.

The burning questions however still persist, as who owns the management of solid waste at Gulmarg, how the issues of solid waste processing will be addressed as the functioning of solid waste management plant (SWMP) remains questionable amidst the allegations that the plant is nonfunctional and that the mounds of garbage are piling with every passing day.

Whenever the locals and climate activists will express satisfaction over the management of solid waste at Gulmarg, a story will follow on the development.

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