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Delay in Pahalgam Master Plan encourages illegal constructions

Suhail Bhat

PAHALGAM, Feb 25:  Inordinate delay in the implementation of Pahalgam Master Plan has encouraged illegal constructions with unscrupulous elements brazenly violating the High Court orders thereby ravaging the ecology of fragile meadows of Pahalgam.
Locals alleged that Government’s failure to implement the revised Master Plan gave free hand to the violators during the period of unrest who have cashed out the summer unrest of 2016 by raising illegal structures. They said that violators have also completed the pending structural works on the existing structures wherein construction work had been stopped by the High Court after locals filed a public interest law suit in the year 2010.
“The authorities are deliberately turning a blind eye to these illegal constructions. They stop the locals who only want to build their houses or renovate the damaged ones and are letting a free hand to hoteliers and other commercial establishments. Some people who have political support are constructing hotels in the woods without any hindrances,” Showkat Amin, a local, said.
Over the years, places like Mavoora have witnessed mushrooming of more than one hundred structures and the works which were stopped by the court to avoid further vandalisation.
As per the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) itself, there were reports of illegal construction from all the 16 villages including Kralpora, Nunwan, Movera and Yenar, Veersiran, Langalbal that come under PDA which also regulates the building activities in the area.
“We were facing an unfortunate situation. People were hiding behind this unrest. At times, our demolition squad at Pahalgam was attacked by people. The mob also thrashed my vehicle and harassed my employees several times. We have to, unfortunately, retreat at several occasions but when unrest waned we brought almost all the construction to the ground. We haven’t slept a single night during the period of unrest,” Mushtaq Ahmad Simnani, the Chief Executive Officer of Pahalgam, said.
The locals also said in the interior hamlets of Pahalgam like Mavoora and Yenar people with political lineage have illegally constructed hotels and commercial complexes. At places like Susiran which is wildlife range a considerable part of woods had been denudated thereby posing a threat to the sustainable development of the area, they said.
To stop this ecological onslaught from the violators the High Court in 2011 directed the authorities to revise the Master Plan after finding the earlier one (2005-2025) was flawed and prepared with malafide interests. Last week, HC directed implementation of Pahalgam Master Plan. The revised Master Plan was approved by a Cabinet headed by former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed but even after the passage of more than one year, the authorities have failed to implement it.
When CEO was asked about the reasons behind the delay in the implementation of the Master Plan, he said: “Government has sought detailed land records for the successful implementation of the Plan. I have been compiling the records for past few months. The required records are with me and we will submit it for further action. The Master Plan will end our woes as well as we will be having a blueprint in our hand.”

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