Despite HC’s concern, Govt finding it difficult to ensure planned development in Patnitop

Started 7 yrs back, exercise to prepare Master Plan yet to be completed
Hyderabad-based centre not responding to PDA letters
Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Sept 5: Despite High Court’s serious concern over unabated encroachments and illegal constructions, the Government is finding it difficult to ensure planned development of tourist resort of Patnitop and its adjoining areas as finalization of new Master Plan is taking unreasonably long time due to dilly-dallying approach of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) Hyderabad, which was entrusted the task nearly seven years back.
While dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), Division Bench of the State High Court comprising Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Sindhu Sharma few days back expressed concern over encroachments in Patnitop and adjoining areas and accordingly sought details from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Patnitop Development Authority vis-à-vis violations of Building Control Act.
“However, there are grim chances of planned development in Patnitop as exercise to have new Master Plan for the tourist resort and adjoining areas, which was initiated nearly seven years back, has yet not reached the logical conclusion because of absolute non-seriousness at all the levels”, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
The process to prepare new Master Plan for the area was set into motion on September 17, 2011 when an agreement was signed between Patnitop Development Authority and Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Hyderabad. After several years long exercise the draft of the Master Plan was put in the public domain for inviting objections and suggestions early last year.
During the course of inviting objections and suggestions it came to the fore that Khasra Numbers of the land proposed for different activities were not mentioned in the draft of the Master Plan as neither Patnitop Development Authority authorities paid any serious attention towards this vital aspect nor the CEPT sought this vital data from the Revenue Department authorities.
Thereafter began the process of redrafting the draft Master Plan, which was reportedly completed last year and then again the document was put in the public domain for investing fresh objections and suggestions, sources said.
All the objections and suggestions along with the comments of the concerned authorities were then submitted to the CEPT for incorporation in the revised draft and submission to the Patnitop Development Authority for onward placement before the State Government for approval.
“However, during the past over nine months the CEPT is neither coming forward with the final draft of the Master Plan nor responding positively to the communiqués of the Patnitop Development Authority”, sources said, adding “the dilly-dallying approach on the part of CEPT is notwithstanding the fact that 80% payment for preparation of Master Plan has already been made to it by the Patnitop Development Authority”.
They disclosed that Patnitop Development Authority has decided to take up this issue at the highest level in the Government so that legal action is taken against CEPT for not taking the assigned task seriously despite being aware of the fact that there has already been inordinate delay in completion of exercise.
It is pertinent to mention here that Patnitop Development Authority was formed in the year 1992 under Section 4 of the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970 to look after tourism development related activities and the first Master Plan for the area was prepared in 1995 for the planned development of the area. This obsolete Master Plan is still governing the developmental activities in and around Patnitop thereby leading to violations and encroachments.
Pointing towards the haphazard developments and unorganized growth, which is leading to chaos, sources said, “there is dire need for intervention so that the growth could be channelized towards a comprehensive and holistic development with a sensitive approach towards ecological and environmental conservation”, adding “all this is possible only when new Master Plan is in place for the Patnitop and adjoining areas including Sanasar”.