Major relief for government as Bombay High Court refuses to scrap Jalyukta Shivar Yojana

Mumbai: There was some respite for the Maharashtra government on Monday, after the Bombay High Court refused to scrap the Jalyukt Shivar Yojana (JSY), the dream project of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Further, the HC also upheld the recommendations of a nine-member expert committee for effective implementation of the JSY.

A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Mahesh Sonak has now granted three weeks’ time to the government to implement the recommendations of the committee, headed by the former chief secretary of the state. The committee was constituted in May 2017 to study if the River Rejuvenating Project (RRP) and JSY – schemes introduced in 2014, were being implemented scientifically.

The committee consisted of bureaucrats and representatives from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai (IIT-B) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). “Though the committee observed that JSY is being implemented with a scientific approach, it however, noted certain shortcomings.

Therefore, though there are various recommendations made by the committee, including the one for ensuring expected results of JSY, there should be comprehensive financial planning,” Justice Oka said. Notably, the JSY includes various activities such as watershed development work, construction of nullah bunds along with nullah deepening and widening, desilting of percolation tanks in villages, recharging of wells etc.

The committee, in its voluminous report, had recommended various steps, the major one being that a micro-watershed should be the unit for planning JSY, not the villages and also, there should be adherence to the ridge-to-valley principle. A watershed is an area of ridge of land that separates water flowing to different rivers or basins.

The land area which supplies water to a river is known as watershed. The ridge-to-valley principle contemplates that watershed treatment measures are initiated from the highest level and the same progressively move downwards. Having perused the report, Justice Oka said, “We cannot decide about the correctness or otherwise of the policies concerning JSY and RRP.

But the recommendations of the committee appointed by the state merit acceptance and implementation.” The bench also took into account the other recommendations which suggest certain studies – firstly, of soil erosion and the object of the said study is to determine actual soil loss and tolerance level of soil loss. The other suggestion is collection of actual rainfall data by installing rain gauges in JSY villages.

“We direct the government to consider the recommendations of the committee and to take final decision on the implementation thereof within a period of three months from today. The decision taken on the recommendations and a road map for implementation of the recommendations shall be filed within four months,” Justice Oka said. The bench was seized with a petition filed by activist Hiralal Desarda claiming the JSY is full of flaws.

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