Most huts, hotels constructed illegally belong to politicians, bureaucrats, police officials
Despite High Court orders for demolition of illegal structures that have come up on the banks of Lidder river in Yannar and Mawoora areas of Pahalgam in South Kashmir, the commercial structures continue to operate illegally with authorities acting as mute spectators. The hotels and huts are also operating without NOC from Tourism Department.
Earlier this year, Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed authorities in Anantnag to demolish illegal constructions around water bodies in Pahalgam. A Division Bench also directed the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control and District Development Commissioner Anantnag to ensure that no construction activity is carried in violation of the earlier order of not allowing any construction within 200 meters of Lidder. High Court had also directed District Sessions Judge Anantnag to monitor such violations.
A local court had earlier ordered a blanket ban on the constructions on Lidder river and State land in Mawoora. The land mafia had grabbed huge State land and sold it to some hoteliers who went on to construct more than 100 huts and hotels. The judge in his order had strictly directed Revenue, Fisheries departments and Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) to follow the order strictly.
However, locals say that in violation of the government and court orders at least 100 huts and guest houses came up on the banks of Lidder river in Mawoora, thus disturbing the fragile ecosystem and polluting the river.
They said almost entire stretch of dry patch of Lidder, created after its waters changed course following the floods in 1996, at Yannar and Mawoora near Rafting Point has been already converted into a hutment area and constructions have come up on agriculture, kahcharai and irrigation land.
“The authorities in connivance with the land mafia and other influential people allowed illegal constructions in the area,” said the locals.
They said that most of the huts and guest houses that have come up illegally belong to top bureaucrats, politicians and police officials.
Sources said that about 600 kanals of State land has been grabbed by land mafia with the tacit support of revenue officials. “The Patwaris fudge the documents by vesting the proprietary rights to the mafia,” said an official. “The mafia and hoteliers also went on to occupy hundreds of kanals of kahcharai land.”
The locals say that though they sought information under RTI from former Tehsildar about the status of the land but it was denied to them.
“Even the Deputy Commissioner, on the directions of Divisional Commissioner, asked Tehsildar Pahalgam to demarcate the land and submit the report but the order was not honored,” locals added.
Locals say that the hotels and huts are functioning despite not being registered by Tourism Department.
“The irony is that water meant for the irrigation of agriculture land in the area is being diverted to these hotels and huts for drinking purposes,” said an official.
He said the hoteliers have even managed to construct an approach road through kahcharai land for their accessibility.
Tourism Officer Pahlagam, Tariq Ahmad, while admitting that hoteliers are continuing with their commercial operation said, “None of them has got NOC from Tourism Department and there is no question of they getting it as all of them are illegal.” He said the power of sealing the structures lies with PDA and district administration.
Chief Executive Officer, PDA, M Y Bhat said he will make sure no commercial structure operates illegally.
Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Swagat Biswas, however said that no hotel was operating illegally. “We have already ensured that no illegal structure is raised in the area and those which have been raised are not allowed to operate without NOC.”
The DC, however, said that the administration can’t demolish the structures. “We have only been directed not to allow any structures to be raised within 200 meters from either side of the river bank. The administration cannot demolish the structures that have already come up,” he said.
Pertinently, following the HC ban on illegal constructions in Pahalgam, the land mafia shifted their focus towards the vicinities downstream Lidder including Langanbal, Batakot, Gujrani Batkoot, Veersaran, Yannar, Ganeshpora, Aamadzoo, Aamad as well as forest area of Srechan which had not been included in the flawed Master Plan and kept away from the jurisdiction of Pahalgam Development Authority. However, last year government notified nine adjoining villages and brought them under PDA and imposed blanket ban on constructions in these notified areas.