Illegal construction produces individual benefits and immeasurable social damage. In the Kashmir context, there is a huge negative environmental impact. It continues to be a problem that unfortunately keeps only growing in magnitude, notwithstanding claims by the authorities.
In eco-fragile J&K, environmental concerns cannot be ignored or compromised in any manner, the high court observed and precisely so.
Despite the devastating floods of 2014, the magnitude of which was declared to be the largest catastrophe in a centure, constructions, mostly illegal, galore along the river Jhelum, which is an essential natural feature in the Valley and its protection and preservation has to remain of primary and utmost concern.
It cannot be diluted or compromised under any circumstance as is demanded by the larger public interest. It needs of securing the ecology including all natural features.
Without a dispute, as the court observed further, commercial and institutional developments put a much larger strain on the land and existing public facilities than residential usage. The impact of commercial activity on the limited available water and electricity resources, the public sewers and public garbage collection systems also get affected. Noise and air pollution levels get considerably aggravated as the number of vehicles increases in number and frequency. There is tremendous pressure imposed on the circulation areas also.
Huge buildings are also known to use commercial generators resulting in further noise and air pollution as the impact of commercial activities on the environment as well as public facilities is irreversible.
The apex court of the country has observed that environment is polycentric and multi-facet problem affecting human existence. Its pollution causes bodily disabilities, leading to the non-functioning of the vital organs of the body. Noise and pollution are two of the greatest offenders, the latter affects air, water, natural growth and health of the people. Environmental pollution affects, thereby, the health of the general public. A reference to the Stockhoim Declaration of United Nations on Human Environment, 1972, is apt here: “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life. In an environment of equality that permits a life of dignity and well-being and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.”
It is imperative to understand that it affirms both aspects of environment, the natural and the man-made. The protection is essential to well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights–the right to life itself.