The reputed tourist site of Gulmarg in Kashmir has once again come under the focus of the State High Court for numerous deficiencies in maintaining its pristine ecology and environmental health. A PIL has been filed in the State High Court on preservation of this tourist resort from all illegal constructions and pollutants which came up for the hearing of Division Bench. We know that sometime in the past the State Government ordered setting up of Gulmarg Development Authority which would take care of all matters pertaining to environs, ecology, cleanliness, water supply, sewage and other services of the reputed tourist destination. The first thing which the Division Bench took up for consideration was that of the much publicized Gulmarg Master Plan. The subject of preparing a Master Plan for Gulmarg was mooted in 2013. At that time that the plan should be ready in 3 months. Four years have passed by and the plan is nowhere in sight. In March last the Chief Secretary said that the Master Plan was ready and would be placed before the Cabinet for approval. The DB hoped that the Cabinet meeting would be held within two weeks and the Master Plan would receive its nod.
The Division Bench also took up affiliated issues with a view to responding to the request made in the PIL. In order to save the resort from pollution, court directed the State Pollution Control Board to file its status report indicating the present position and functioning of STPs in all hotels in Gulmarg. It shall also indicate in the status report whether there is any plan for setting up of sewerage system in Gulmarg adding that status report shall also indicate quality of water in streams which are flowing in Gulmarg. Plastic and polythene bags are thrown as litter all over the area although a ban was imposed on their use.
Although, the DB has ordered for status reports on various irregularities mentioned in the PIL yet from the replies or no replies coming forth during the court proceedings it seems that most of the allegations made in the PIL carry some weight. This is because the GDA has not been able to defend itself and come out clean from the indictment of the petitioner. We have been dealing with the issue of ecology and environment of the health resort of Gulmarg in these columns in the past. The general impression about GDA is that it has not been performing to the capacity. Preservation of ecology and cleanliness of the environment to make it free of pollution are beset with many deficiencies. There is interference from external players be they the politicians or individuals with vested interest. The attraction of Gulmarg for the tourists should not be allowed to dwindle. During the days of British rule in India, Gulmarg was a cherished spot where the British officers would often come and stay to enjoy the pristine purity of its air and water. Normally things should have improved far more after the British left. Unfortunately, the things seem to have gone wrong. Therefore, the need is that upkeep of Gulmarg as the prime tourist destination has to be revived at all costs.