District Magistrates empowered to demolish structures coming up illegally
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has empowered all district magistrates to demolish constructions that are seen coming up within the prohibited area of river Jhelum and its tributaries in Kashmir. The Court also stayed all constructions on the river banks right from its source in Verinag in South Kashmir to Uri in North.
“As interim measure, we direct that constructions on the banks of river Jhelum from Verinag downwards and also on the river banks of tributaries of Jhelum shall remain stayed,” a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey said in its order on an application by Advocate G A Lone in a Public Interest Litigation seeking doing away with encroachments along the river banks.
Moreover, the bench directed all district magistrates to demolish any construction seen coming up in their areas of jurisdiction where the river or its tributary passes.
Taking cognizance of media reports, the bench also directed the court committee headed by former Principal and District Judge Abdul Wahid to report if any construction is underway within 200 meters from the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar.
The bench passed the directions after going through a notice published in Greater Kashmir at the instance of District Magistrate Anantnag on September 26, 2014 disclosing the cause of recent devastating flood in the Valley. The notice, citing an expert committee report on how encroachments on river Jhelum and its tributaries caused the devastating flood, was filed as annexure with an application by the applicant, Lone.
The Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, while citing the expert committee report, had notified that out of total width of river Jhelum, only one-fifth has been left out without encroachments and all embankments have been breached particularly in Anantnag, Bijbehara and villages of other tehsils of South Kashmir.
The report said on account of encroachments by way of plantations and constructions, breaches have occurred leading to deluge which has resulted in catastrophe in Kashmir.
On the basis of the report, the DM had directed all encroachers to remove plantations and constructions along river Jhulem and its tributaries—Lidder, Arpath, Brengi, Vaishav, Sandran, Vethvetrsoo—within 15 days. He also directed that if the encroachers fail to remove the encroachments, they would be removed by the Irrigation and Flood Control department at the cost of the encroacher.
Pertinently, the High Court has previously stayed constructions within 200 meters of Liddernallah in south Kashmir, and Dal lake in Srinagar, as well as 100 meters from either side of the bank of river Sindh.