Delay in Pahalgam Master Plan raises eyebrows

Locals say influential builders manipulating draft

The continuing delay in the finalization of Master Plan of Pahalgam has raised apprehensions among the locals who believe that the move is deliberate and an attempt to manipulate the entire process for the benefit of influential persons who are presently constructing hotels in green areas.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has put a blanket ban on constructions in Pahalgam following a Public Interest Litigation filed by Peoples Welfare Organization Pahalgam. Later in 2011, the Court directed the authorities to go for revision of Master Plan (2006) after observing that the earlier one was full of flaws.
A committee was later constituted to prepare the draft Master Plan and also incorporate the suggestions put forth by Environment Impact Assessment team. The committee comprised of Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) and a representative of Chief Town Planner (CTP). The committee appointed sub-committee which subsequently put forth the draft for objections and further suggestions before the public and other stakeholders in December last year.
“Two months were given for filing any objections and the same were received but later due to some unknown reasons the time was extended by one month and then again by two more months,” official sources said. “Even the court has reprimanded the committee many a times and directed to expedite the process.”
An official said the draft Master Plan was even put before people of Pahlagam in presence of local MLA during a meeting and it was unanimously accepted that their genuine concerns have been addressed.
“However, some ministers and bureaucrats in connivance with the land mafia are using every possible method to scuttle the process,” the official said.
He said that they are buying time in order to manipulate this Master Plan too to favor the rich and influential and also pave way for illegal constructions. “The land mafia and property dealers also continue to dupe the gullible people by making them purchase land for hefty sums in the zones which they assure them would be permissible in the new Master Plan.”
“The committee had to make some modifications suggested by the sub-committee and submit it to government to be presented in the Cabinet, but some vested interests wanted to scuttle the process and delay it till upcoming Assembly elections,” an official said.
Meanwhile, locals are also growing apprehensive about the unnecessary delay in the finalization of the plan. “The rich and influential, despite High Court ban, are not stopping raising illegal structures but we are not allowed to repair even our residential houses,” say the villagers of Laripora. “The illegal constructions are on even in more than 10 areas notified last year and bought within the purview of PDA.”
They said that they had hoped that with the finalization of the Master Plan they will get some reprieve but the delay has again put the question mark over the intentions of the authorities.
“We fear that, like in the previous Master Plan, the rich and influential may again get the green environs where they have purchased land and even raised illegal structures designated as permissible and the residential areas where we have been living since ages as non-permissible,” said Reyaz Ahmad Lone, Chairperson Peoples Welfare Organization, Pahalgam.
Lone said the final draft which has been prepared by the planners under the supervision of court after accommodating all the suggestions and objections should be submitted without any delay to the save the place from further vandalism. “The mafia even got the Chief Town Planner transferred in the middle of finalization of the Master Plan but then the Court intervened,” said Lone.
Secretary Tourism, Zaffar Ahmad Bhat, said, “We have written to the committee to expedite the process and submit the report soon.”
He said the committee has disposed off most of the objections and now further recommendations are to be incorporated by CTP and then the report will be submitted to government for approval and put before the Cabinet.

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