Finalization of draft Master Plan for Patnitop remains least priority even for present Govt

Tourism Deptt fails to take decision on vital issues
No benefit of huge expenditure incurred on preparing document

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Oct 15: The finalization of draft Master Plan prepared for planned development of famous tourist destination of Patnitop and its adjoining areas in the year 2017 has remained least priority even for the present Government as no decision has been taken on certain vital issues despite being brought to the notice of the Tourism Department a number of times.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that the first Master Plan for Patnitop was prepared in 1995 and keeping in view huge influx of tourists over the years the need to have controlled and planned development was felt. Accordingly, Patnitop Development Authority decided to revise the Master Plan and the task was assigned to Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) Ahmedabad through a formal agreement dated September 17, 2011.
After several years long exercise the draft of the Master Plan was put in the public domain for inviting objections and suggestions in early 2017. However, during this exercise it came to the fore that Khasra Numbers of the land proposed for different activities were not mentioned in the draft 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.
Thereafter began the process of redrafting the draft Master Plan and then again the document was put in the public domain for investing fresh objections and suggestions, sources said, adding “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 Government for approval”.
During the pendency of finalization of draft Master Plan, the Government, by way of formal orders, brought more areas under the jurisdiction of Patnitop Development Authority and then the need of incorporating these areas in the draft Master Plan before finalization of document was felt.
“Since then there is no further development mainly because of absolute non-seriousness on the part of the Tourism Department, which has administrative control over Patnitop Development Authority, in taking decision on certain vital issues”, sources said, adding “as CEPT has already submitted the draft and obtained Rs 23 lakh rupees for the task it is not ready to handle the additional assignment of incorporating more areas in the draft Master Plan”.
They disclosed that in the official meetings of the Tourism Department this issue was debated a number of times but no final decision has so far been taken even by the present Government, adding “the Tourism Department is required to decide how to incorporate additional areas in the draft Master Plan and for want of any decision the draft document is gathering dust in the Civil Secretariat”.
“The flaws which surfaced following the preparation of draft Master Plan was the outcome of non-involvement of Town Planning Organization in the exercise”, sources informed, adding “while taking decision about assigning the task of preparation of Master Plan to CEPT this vital aspect neither received the attention of Tourism Department nor of those who were at the helm of affairs in the Patnitop Development Authority at that time”.
Sources further said, “the issue which is creating impediment in the finalization of draft Master Plan is no so complex that it cannot be resolved even after the lapse of so many years. Moreover, the Government particularly Tourism Department must keep in mind that no benefit of expenditure of lakhs of rupees made on the preparation of document has been obtained till date”.
“In the absence of proper Master Plan the planned development of famous tourist destination and its adjoining areas cannot be ensured and this is notwithstanding the fact that while dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Sindhu Sharma had expressed concern over encroachments in Patnitop and adjoining areas and had stressed for early finalization of Master Plan”, sources said.
Pointing towards the haphazard developments and unorganized growth taken place so far, they 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”.