SRINAGAR, Aug 1: Expressing serious concern over the depleting green cover, unlawful construction in the flood basins and rampant change of land-use in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor N N Vohra today asked the Law Department to work out modalities of a single authority oriented legal framework for effectively dealing with unlawful constructions and land encroachments in the State.
The Governor made these remarks while chairing a high-level meeting at Civil Secretariat here to review the status of ‘Master Plans’ and ‘Zonal Plans’ which are being prepared by Housing and Urban Development Department (H&UDD) for the twin capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu and other major towns of the State.
The meeting was attended by B B Vyas and Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, Advisors to the Governor, BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary, KB Aggarwal, Financial Commissioner, Housing & Urban Development and Baseer Ahmad Khan, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir. Sanjeev Verma, Divisional Commissioner Jammu attended the meeting through video-conferencing.
Vohra was informed that the Jammu Master Plan has been finalized and zonal plans for 19 Planning divisions are being formulated.
He reviewed the status of preparation of Master Plans for Budgam, Srinagar, Baramulla, Ganderbal and Samba districts.
He called for further internal consultations and public hearings on the draft Srinagar Master Plan before it is finalised. He said the officers and officials entrusted with the job of formulating the Master Plan should explain, in public hearings, the basis of the Government’s position in regard to the Master Plan which should be a futuristic document keeping in view the environmental sensitivities, rapidly increasing housing and other infrastructure requirements, growing population etc.
“The aspirations and complaints of people must be harmonised and infused in the Master Plans. We must effectively address the concerns of different categories of stakeholders and remember that the Government works to promote the welfare of people,” Vohra observed. He asked the H&UDD to fix timelines and hold consultations with business chambers, transporters, prominent citizens, environmentalists, conservation specialists and other stakeholders before the Srinagar Master Plan is finalised.
The Governor called for immediate steps to prevent illegal constructions and encroachments, particularly in vulnerable areas including green belts, flood basins and on the roads and public places, by implementing the 2013 High Court order on unlawful constructions. He asked the law enforcement agencies to ensure that no building permission violations and encroachments take place anywhere in the State.
“There should be zero tolerance for encroachments and illegal constructions on the State lands and Kahcharai. Wherever illegal buildings have come up, the offenders will be dealt with as per law. All the officers must go out and see what is happening on the ground,” the Governor directed, while ordering weekly surveillance by concerned agencies in encroachment-prone areas, particularly around the water bodies and in the green belt areas.
The Governor said the new Master Plans for different areas of the State should address concerns and incorporate solutions for addressing the issues of depleting green cover and rampant and unplanned urbanization. He also called for greater harmony between different agencies so that the Master Plans don’t clash with tourism master plans prepared by Tourism Development Authorities.
Governor said the multiplicity of agencies overseeing the development of Srinagar city and other areas of the State complicates the work of the law enforcement agencies in differentiating between commercial and residential areas, and the legal framework for a Centralized authority being responsible for all land related issues should be explored. He said that the Srinagar Development Authority and Srinagar Municipal Corporation should use their powers to act stringently against the violators.
The Governor asked Chief Secretary to examine the creation of posts of State Chief Architect and Chief Town Planner for synchronizing the expansion and future outlook of the environmentaly-fragile state of J&K.