Encroachment of govt land goes unchecked
Shabir-ul-Haq (Rising Kashmir)
Srinagar: While the government is thinking of passing an ordinance against the conversion of agricultural land into other forms, a large chunk of the land belonging to agriculture department is under threat from land mafia.
A big portion of many agricultural farms and nurseries across the valley have been encroached on by the land mafia in Srinagar, Anantnag, Budgam and other districts. Sources in the agriculture department said the land mafia is enjoying patronage of both politicians and top officials of agriculture and revenue department.
Pleading anonymity, an agriculture official said, "The influential land brokers have managed to grab thousands of kanals of land belonging to the agriculture, floriculture, horticulture and sericulture in many districts of the valley.” He said that if some honest officials object to the illegal land grabbing, they are threatened of dire consequences by the land mafia.
Another official, wishing not to be named, said the land mafia in order to grab some portion of the government nurseries and farms intentionally purchase the land near them. "After purchasing the land near agriculture, horticulture and sericulture nurseries, the land brokers being in nexus with the revenue officials easily manage to fudge revenue records to grab some more kanals from these nurseries and farms," he said, adding, "The government seems to be least concerned about the issue.”
Citing examples of two agriculture farms in Srinagar, the official said, "The land brokers after purchasing a big portion of land behind the agriculture farms in Dangarpora and Chattabal areas tried to grab some portion of the farms that would lead as a path to the land they have purchased.”
"The land brokers have also started harassing our employees who stay there for watch and ward during nights. The top officials of the department are fully aware about the harassment of employees by the mafia, but for reasons better known to them, no action is being taken against them," he added.
In another case of land grabbing in Dialagam area of Islamabad, a former Ikhwani and now a government employee, has encroached upon many kanals of a nursery belonging to sericulture and has even constructed a house on it.
There are reports of agriculture nurseries and farms having been grabbed by the land mafia in connivance with some top officials of agriculture and revenue departments in Pulwama, Tral, Budgam and other areas also.
Unhindered constructions mutilate Pahalgam
Khalid Gul (Greater Kashmir)
Pahalgam: Despite repeated recommendations by the Tourism and Ecology & Environment departments for imposing a five-year moratorium on building activity in the commercial sector in Pahalgam, concrete structures continue to come up in this famous tourist resort of south Kashmir.
During the last two decades this resort is changing into a large concrete town with commercial structures coming up at an unsustainable pace.
In 2007, the then Assistant Director Tourism, vide letter no. 795-99/TOP addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA), expressed concern over the large-scale construction.
“The building activity in Pahalgam is going on at such a fast pace that it could harm the ecology of the area irreparably and denude Lidder valley of its unique character. Any imbalance with the elements of nature can have serious repercussions for the ecology and economy of the whole area. Thus it is requested to impose a building moratorium for five years and only allow repairs, face-lifting and reconstruction of the already existing structures after proper permission and the building permission be limited only to the local residents strictly for residential purpose with strict building guidelines,” he wrote.
Subsequently, the Directorate of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing, too endorsed the five-year moratorium proposal, adding that provisions of Environment Protection Act be implemented in letter and spirit.
“But to the contrary, large commercial structures including huts and hotels are coming up in the ecologically vulnerable zones despite the accommodation available, in both private and public sector, being more than sufficient to cater to the current demand,” sources in the Building And Operations Controlling Authority (BOCA) said.
Sources further said JKTDC alone has the capacity to erect tented accommodation with a capacity of another 4000 beds which can be enhanced when required. Also there are many sites in state land available at Nunwan, Ganesbal, Aru, Frislan, Mamlan, Mandian and Athnadan and Pahalgam which have the potential of enhancing temporary seasonal accommodation by thousand more beds if basic amenities like mobile or permanent toilets are made available.
Chief Executive Officer, PDA, Waheed Ahmad Tak, said, “It is true that Pahalgam along with its surroundings has been turned into a jungle of concrete structures. I have taken up this issue with the Chief Minister recently. I hope we will come up with some plan.”
Violations Of Srinagar Master Plan To Be Undone
Srinagar: Bulldozers will go into action in the summer capital once again as the government appears to have finally woken up to the proliferation of illegal commercial complexes in the city and is planning a massive demolition drive to undo large-scale violations of the Srinagar Master Plan.
Though commercial complexes have broken out like an indiscriminate rash all over Srinagar, successive governments have failed to enforce legal and civic guidelines about the location of such structures, often under the pressure of influential quarters.
For starters, to undo some of the damage, the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) is targeting illegal construction mushrooming on the upcoming by-pass from Tengpora to Naugam.
A comprehensive action plan to tear down illegal constructions on the stretch has been drawn up after a detailed survey of the city by special squads to identify the violations in civic guidelines.
The squads have already sealed the fate of many complexes that had originally been approved as residential premises but were later converted for commercial purposes.
Sources said that in such cases certain influential quarters had obtained permissions for constructing residential houses or undertaking repairs and renovation, but had gone on to put up shopping lines and commercial buildings, which are a brazen violation of the Srinagar Master Plan.
Scores of illegal commercial complexes and hundreds of other unauthorized constructions are said to have come up on both sides of the by-pass, and many have now been marked as condemned by the SDA squads.
The Authority says that the constructions would be bulldozed in an extensive demolition drive starting within a few days. The constructions include automobile showrooms erected in lieu of farm houses, guest houses, medical clinics, shopping malls, even schools and a host of other commercial enterprises.
Big names such Chevrolet, Peak Automobiles and the Srinagar British School are said to have been erected in place of residential premises originally authorized by the administration, and have now been marked for the bulldozer’s blade.
Even the government-run tourism department and the Indian Railways are said to have gone against the Srinagar Master Plan, and are currently the subjects of an SDA survey.
But hoping to twist the law once again in their favour, influential violators are flocking to the designated tribunal to halt the demolishing hands of the SDA, and many appear to be succeeding.
But SDA sources maintain that violators would be given no quarter now, and no diversionary tactic would be allowed to succeed.