Hundreds of pine trees around hotel dry up, Govt unmoved

Dried trees around illegally constructed hotels in Gulmarg. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
Dried trees around illegally constructed hotels in Gulmarg. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Huts dismantled, converted into hotels

Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR, June 23: Thousands of pine trees around the hotels in Gulmarg bowl have dried up as the hoteliers are using chemicals, girdling and debarking to clear the pine trees for land grab and illegal constructions.
A senior Forest official said that although Gulmarg bowl has been transferred to Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) but admitted that thousands of trees there, mostly around hotels have dried up over the years as the hoteliers are using various methods to clear the trees.
“They use acid, girdling and debarking that dries up trees around these hotels. The dried trees are later felled to pave way for land grab and illegal constructions”, the official said. He added that besides these methods, the hazardous waste also destroys forests in Gulmarg as waste disposal by hotels is not done scientifically in environmentally fragile zone.
The Pride Hut that was four bedded has been dismantled by its owner and now a concrete hotel is coming up at its place. General Manager of the Pride Hut, however, told Excelsior that they have got permission from the GDA under High Court directions when the Court has banned constructions.
“Our permission has been given by the GDA only. We are doing constructions as per the directions of High Court. We are only strengthening the existing structure and doing its retrofitting,” he said, and added that they have been given permission after proper examination of the construction site by the High Court and concerned officials.
However, the Registrar Judicial, Masrat Shaheen, last week asked all the hoteliers including Pride Hut to stop illegal constructions and has submitted a detailed report before the High Court about illegal constructions in Gulmarg.
The Royal Castle has also dismantled a four bed room hut and is constructing concrete 30-40 room hotel in the name of repairs. He has almost finished the construction of structure and is doing interiors these days.
In the same way, Khilan Hut and Green Tree lodge have dismantled their huts and are constructing concrete hotels at their place.
These hoteliers have dumped huge construction material including cement, iron, gravel, sand and bricks around the construction sites. They are mostly dumping the construction material during the night.
The CCTV cameras installed at Tangmarg and Gulmarg to monitor the ferrying of construction material into Gulmarg bowl are defunct.
The locals have demanded that the drying up of trees should be probed and so should be the illegal constructions that are going on in Gulmarg bowl.