Valley hotels to remain closed for two days

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SRINAGAR: The Valley hoteliers have decided to close all their hotels on October 28 and 29 to oppose installation of individual Sewage Treatment Plant in their premises. The hoteliers will also display banners across different tourist destinations reading “Sorry-we are closed” to not accommodate any tourists in hotels during these two days.

The hotel and restaurant owners had earlier threatened to close down their hotels if the state authorities went ahead with their “suppressive policy” towards them.

“We have made it clear to the government and State Pollution Control Board that our industry will not install STPs. The government is obliged to install Common STPs under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) scheme to cover entire commercial and domestic sectors for the safeguard of environment,” said Convener Coordination Committee of KHARA and KHAROF, Faiz Ahmad Bakhshi.

The coordination committee meeting of Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association, Kashmir Hotels (KHARA), Restaurant Hotels and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF) Pahalgam Hotels and Restaurant Owners Association (PHAROA) was held here today where the hoteliers unanimously decided to close the hotels to protest government’s inability to construct a common STP at tourist places.

The hoteliers demanded that sealed hotels should be re-opend at Gulmarg and Pahalgam and urgent steps should be taken to prevent sealing of hotels at Srinagar and other places by adhering to the existing Government Policy under JNNRUM for constructing common STPs.

Baskshi said the hotels, guest houses, restaurants, through universally accepted conventional system for treatment of effluent and sewage disposal, have in place the required self constructed septic tanks and soakage pits which through drainage and sewerage systems are connected with the community Sewage Treatment Plants (STP’S) in some areas.

“The projects for connecting other parts of Srinagar are in progress and expected to be completed by March, 2015. The Pahalgam project is more than 90% complete and likely to be commissioned soon. There is need to undertake the construction of more  common STPs at Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Katra, Jammu and other parts of the State as recommended by the State Pollution Control Board for which reasonable usage charges” can be levied on hotels, commercial establishments and other users,” said hoteliers in the meeting. 

Bakshi said the Pollution Control Board in its letter No SPCB/150-156 dated 31-05-2011 addressed to the Commissioner Housing & Urban Development stressed on the  urgent requirement of construction/completion of common STPs by the Government so that waste water from residential areas, commercial establishments and related sources is discharged into water bodies like River Jhelum, Chenab, Tawi, Lidder, Sindh, Mansar, Dal lake etc.

He said despite several assurances from the government they STPs would be installed nothing has been done in this respect so for.

“On the contrary, a large number of hotels, guest houses and restaurants at Gulmarg, Pahalgham, Sonmarg , Srinagar face sealing and closure thereby inflicting a deadly blow to tourism industry in general and hotel industry in particular,” he said.

“In view of these developments KHARA-KHAROF co-ordination committee has been left with no option but to observe complete shutdown of all the units in the entire Kashmir valley to lodge our protest against the victimization of our trade,” Bakshi said.

President of Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association (KHAROF), G M Dug said the hotel industry has suffered huge losses during the past 23 years due to non –conducive circumstances and the industry needs to be protected and not subjected to forced adherence to guidelines.

Dug said it was illogical to compare them with metro cities like Mumbai and Delhi when for all practical purposes state is bracketed with North-East States where no guidelines of Pollution Control Board are applicable.

“It is not possible for the hotelier to install STPs on individual basis in a landlocked and geographically disadvantageously located State with temperature touching as low as -20 degrees Celsius at some tourist destinations,” Dug said.

“We have always obeyed the government orders, policies and plan, but how would we comply with something which threatens a disaster for the hospitality sector in the Valley,” Dug added.

President of Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association, Showkat Chowdhary said Minister of Forest & Environment,   Minister of Tourism and Culture and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development had decided in a meeting on 16th May 2011 that the STPs would be constructed by the Government and connected with drains and sewer lines.

“The government has backtracked from its stand and there is no option left for us but to close down our hotels and restaurants,” Chowdhary said.

Chowdhary said hospitality sector forms major component of tourism industry in which huge investments have been made on the invitation of government through various Incentive Schemes for development of tourism for overall economic growth of the State.

“More than 30% of state’s population is directly or indirectly connected with the tourism industry which acts as an agent of growth for other sectors of  economy like handicrafts, transport, horticulture, wholesale & retail businesses, houseboats  travel trade, tour operators, ponnywallahs, shikarawalahs and the people from far flung areas who earn their livelihood from tourism related activities,” Chowdhary said.

He said tourism industry is the mainstay of economy of the State making a significant contribution to the States Gross Development Product (SGDP).

“As per a survey jointly conducted by Central & State Governments the tourism industry in the State is the second largest employer after the Government providing direct employment to about 350000 persons(2012 figs) in Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh.” (Press PR)

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