Chairman BOCA seeks fresh constructions in Sonamarg against SC, MoEFCC guidelines

Blueprint committee lacks members from Environment, Forest

Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, May 25: In gross violation of Supreme Court and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India guidelines, the Chairman of BOCA for Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA) has formed a committee which seeks creation of new accommodations in eco-fragile Sonamarg which has already crossed the threshold for constructions.
The BOCA chairman has submitted a blueprint for Tourism Development Authority Sonamarg before the High Court which seeks permission for creating new accommodation facilities at the tourist resort.
“Permission for creation of new accommodation facilities to cater high end tourists which include big business houses, Film production houses, Corporate and MICE tourism as per the existing capacity of the area. To permit creations of infrastructure in those cases which are cleared by BOCA but till date have not started the work as per the norms in the BOCA Act. To permit the authorities to allow the completion of infrastructure and Buildings within permissible limits which are under construction as per the approved plan/ permissions,” read the Blueprint.
The Blueprint further read: “To allow BOCA to receive new applications for consideration of development of infrastructure. All these activities will be governed as per existing Master Plan 2005-25 by the BOCA.”
The Blueprint has been submitted hardly two months after then CEO SDA, Mushtaq Ahmad Rather, in an affidavit before the High Court in February this year made it clear that no fresh constructions can be allowed in eco-fragile Sonamarg.
“…any further new construction in the Sonamarg area will drastically add to the existing foot print and bulk, thereby causing further damage to the ecologically fragile environment of the Sonamarg area; and if the permissions for new constructions at the Sonamarg area are considered by the competent authority, there are at least 32 cases of building permissions for construction of Hotels/Huts etc at Sonamarg pending with the SDA, who have already obtained almost all the requisite NOCs way back in 2013 and onwards from different quarters as envisaged in the existing Master Plan 2005-25 of Tourist Destination Sonarmarg, which could lead further damage to the ecologically fragile environment of the area,” the affidavit read.
The Blueprint seeking fresh constructions has been prepared by the handpicked members and chairman of a committee formed by the Chairman of the BOCA SDA. The signatories include representative of Chief Town Planner Kashmir, Tourist Officer Sonamarg, Executive Engineer TDA, Sonamarg, Assistant Professor Tourism Development Studies Central University, Chief Executive Officer SDA and Additional District Development Commissioner, Ganderbal.
An official said that the committee formed by the BOCA chairman is against the guidelines of the Apex court and MoEFCC, Government of India.
“In this committee there is no Chief Town planner, Regional Director Environment and Divisional Officer Forest Sindh Division. The Environment and Forest Department members are vital as per Apex Court guidelines for any such committee which deals with the constructions in eco-fragile zones,” he added.
The Regional Director of Environment & Remote Sensing in this context had addressed a letter (No:-DERS/RDK/22/239-41 dated 30-11-2022) to the CEO SDA which reads: “…DEERS is constrained not to issue any NOC/EC officially or through BOCA for fresh construction permissions for safeguarding the Ecology and Environment of these fragile eco sensitive areas till EIA is conducted in accordance with section 8 (b) of EIA Notification No 2006 read with amendments, particularly SO 5733 (E) dated: 14th November, 2018 issued by MoEFCC, Government of India.”