The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has passed a proposal from the J&K Law and Justice Department to construct a new High Court complex on 40.66 hectares, or about 100 acres, inside Jammu city’s Bahu Conservation Reserve, about a year after Forest officials red-flagged a key component. This development has taken place at a time when land is being scrutinized in J&K and people who benefitted under Roshni scam are being looked for.
The NBWL clearance passes the decks for the project and it was received last month. The project proposal reserves at least 20 per cent of the total built-up area for accommodation of judges and judicial staff. But on October 15, 2019, around two weeks before J&K was officially split into two Union Territories, the then state Forest Department had sent the proposal to the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) with residential Building/Colony will not be constructed on the forest land. However, the project got passed without going through any change in land requirement.
Bahu conservation reserve is the green belt of Jammu city alongwith Ramnagar wildlife sanctuary. Both these reserves were announced as protected forest in 1981. C M Seth, former chief wildlife warden said that these are the two lungs of the Jammu city and the Tawi river which flows between these reserves act as the duct. Damaging this natural system will negatively affect the local air quality, hydrology and temperature.
The project note which is prepared by the J&K Law and Justice Department shows that the land under consideration is about ten-times of what is shown as the actual requirement on record.
The note shows that the total built-up area in low and mid-rise buildings needs a “ground coverage” of 25,000-50,000 sq m — 2.5-5 hectares — allowing for expansion for over the next 40 years in future. But what is under consideration has a total requirement of 250,000 sq m — 25 hectares —with 80 per cent open space for “tree-covered surface parking”, etc.
The other application for forest clearance shows the requirement of 40.66 hectares. That is almost double of campuses of the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court that cover around 21 hectares, or 51 acres, after many expansions.