HC Miffed Over Constructions in Meadows, Seeks Pahalgam Map

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Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday expressed resentment over the constructions in meadows even as it sought the map containing forest and wildlife areas under Phalgam Development Authority.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, seeking protection to the fragile ecology of Pahalgam, a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmad and Justice M K Hanjura also directed the concerned authorities that map shall also indicate “no construction zone” along river Lidder.

Referring to massive constructions in Sonamarg tourist place, the court said that it was “very very concerned about all tourist places.”

“I have seen situation in Sonmarg. It is alarming as buildings are coming up in meadows. Glaciers are receding and mountains are crumbling which is a major cause of global warming. Forest area in Sonamarg has also been eaten away,” Chief Justice observed and underlined that the officials must do their job “honestly.” “Any construction contrary to forest area and Master Plan be stopped as such we want demarcation of Phalgam area in the first instance,” the court said.

The court also observed that list of all construction coming up in the Pahalgam area in contrary to law shall be placed before it on next date of hearing.

Meantime court took serious note on non-appearance of Secretary Tourism and observed that he was the most important person in the scheme of saving Phalgam from complete commercialization and exploitation at the hands of people “who are only after money.”.

The court said the reasons given for his non-appearance was not convincing. “We hope he will be present on next date,” the court said and directed all the officials for presence on next date.

In compliance to court’s previous direction, all other officials including Secretaries of Revenue and Forest department, Deputy Commissioner Anantnag and Chief Executive Officer of Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) were present during the today’s hearing.

Earlier this year, the court had sought a detailed report from government about the issues regarding revised Master Plan for Pahalgam.

Based on recommendations by an expert committee, the revised master plan was approved by the cabinet under the chairmanship of then Chief Minister, late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, on 8 September 2015.

The copy of the revised master plan was later placed before the high court which on 16 September 2015 sought detailed clarifications on a number of issues from the government.

Sixteen months later, the secretary to government tourism and culture department filed a status report before the court.

“On perusal of the report, we feel that the same does not deal with the issues that were required to be dealt with,” the court said during the hearing of PIL filed by Peoples Welfare Organization Pahalgam through advocate Parvez Imroz.

It had directed for a detailed report regarding the decision taken by the committee which the government says is dealing with the issues raised by the court.

The earlier approved Master Plan 2005-2025 of Pahalgam was revised on the directions of the High Court in 2011 amid its observations that it was flawed and prepared with malafide intentions. The revision was ordered so that basic facilities, development works and recreational avenues for the tourists can be created in a planned manner by adhering to strict procedural and environmental norms, as laid down in the Master Plan.

 

 

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