Almost 14 months after the Jammu and Kashmir administration notified a law allowing earmarking of land for use by armed forces, a patch of some 70 hectares in Gulmarg and Sonamarg tourist resorts in the Valley has been declared as “strategic areas”.
The armed forces can now carry out construction activities on this land. Officials said the land was already under the use of the Army for years and no change or transfer of the land was being made. “The land is under the Army’s use for decades for training and other relevant things,” said an official.
Peoples Democratic Party chief criticised the move, saying the allocation of huge tracts of land to the armed forces in tourist areas “confirmed the intention of the Centre to convert J&K into a military garrison”.
According to an order issued in Jammu on December 31, 2021, by the J&K Tourism Department, 1,034 kanals (approximately 52 hectares) of land at Gulmarg in Baramulla district and 354 kanals (approximately 18 hectares) in Sonamarg in the Ganderbal district were declared as “strategic areas” for the use of armed forces in the region.
The Srinagar-based 15 Corps Commander has been asked to ensure strict adherence to related laws to prevent any environmental hazard. This order was the first notification issued by the administration of the Union Territory of J&K after the amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970, by the Union Home Ministry in October 2020 through an executive order. The administrative council headed by the J&K Lt Governor gave its nod to the amendment to the Control of Building Operations Act, 1988, and the J&K Development Act, 1970, to provide for special dispensation for carrying out construction activities in strategic areas. As per amendments, the armed forces can undertake infrastructure development even in ecologically fragile areas, which are declared as “strategic areas”.