HC to govt: Ensure no illegal constructions in Pahalgam

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed authorities to ensure that no activity takes place in violation of its orders banning any construction within the radius of 200 meters on either side of the river Lidder in Pahalgam area of south Kashmir.
A division of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi directed Chief Executive Officer Pahalgam Development Authority, Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Kashmir, and District Development Commissioner, Anantnag, to file status report a week before the next date of hearing in the case on April 9.
The bench was hearing a Public Interest litigation filed in 2010 by an apolitical NGO, Pahalgam People’s Welfare Organization, seeking directions from the court to safeguard Pahalgam, one of the famous tourist destinations in Kashmir, from illegal constructions and pollution.
The bench also directed the authorities to file a detailed status report before the next date of hearing regarding 1280 illegal structures identified to have come up within the 200 meters on Sheshnag Nagar nallah and Aru nallah, tributaries of Lidder from Rangward and Mondlan to Nonwan Yatra Base Camp.
The details about the structures were revealed in the status report filed by the Chief Engineer of I&FC Department on September 21 last year.
“The report does not disclose the date of their construction and seems to have been submitted in pursuance of direction issued on July 17, 2013. Therefore, it becomes necessary to find out the details of constructions and the approximate dates of their construction,” the bench said.
Of the 1280 constructions, 540 fall within 50 meters whereas 287 fall within 51 to 100 meters. The remaining 453 structures fall within the radius of 101 to 200 meters.
Meanwhile, the court observed that the latest status report filed by the Chief Engineer (on December 7, 2013) depicts flagrant violations by five persons—Ghulam Hassan Wani, son in law of Abdul Gaffar Wani, of Anzulla, Anantnag; Ghulam Rasool Bhat, son of Abdul Rehman Bhat, of Anzula, Anantnag; Zonal Educational Officer, Mattan through Tauseef Ahmad Dar, of Vailnagabal; Mushtaq Ahmad Sathoo, of Anantnag; and Zonal Education Officer, Mattan.
The Chief Engineer, in his affidavit, has stated that the violators have been served with notices under section 83 of the Water Resources and Management Act, 2010 and illegal construction activities have been stopped with the assistance of district administration.
“In the earlier order, we have clarified that if any illegal construction within the radius of 200 meters in violation of court order (dated 17-7-2013) is found to be in progress, then the authorities would be competent to demolish the same without any procedural difficulties,” the bench said, directing the authorities to file the status report about the five illegal constructions.
Meanwhile, the PDA informed the court that “Draft Revised Master Plan” and “Land Use Plan” has been noticed which was to be published as per the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970.
The department said that on account of inclement weather and request made by the residents, the cut-off date for seeking objections to the revised Master Plan has been extended to March 15 next.
“Thereafter, objections would be considered and Master Plan as well as Land Use Plan would be finalized,” the PDA added.
Advocate Parvez Imroz appeared on behalf of the petitioners while Additional Advocate General M A Chashoo and advocate Mohsin Qadri represented government and PDA respectively.