Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has asked the Director Tourism to clarify whether the 32 hotels and guest houses, which are under permanent occupation of forces and ‘protected’ persons, have Sewerage Treatment Plants.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice M M and Justice Hasnain Massodi also asked the Director to report about 1,340 hotels and guest houses which are hired by the Estates Department to accommodate the employees on darbar move.
The bench also sought status about Circuit House and Guest Houses—East and West at Srinagar—and hill resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam. The status to be furnished by March 28 shall include details including whether the waste water treatment plants are functional and attached with common STPs.
The bench also observed that the government in its order on November 18 last had extended the facility of common STPs to hotels in Jammu. However, the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) has not filed status of STPs in respect of any hotel in Jammu, Katra and Patnitop.
“We have been informed that a number of hotels in these cities are transacting their business without STPs. The Nodal Officer-cum-Director Tourism, as well as SPCB authorities shall file status report of STPs in hotels operating in Jammu, Katra and Patnitop,” the court said.
The status report should also disclose details of guest houses and government accommodation.
“All directions issued for Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Srinagar shall also be applicable to Jammu, Katra and Patnitop,” the court added.
In another direction, the court asked Director Tourism (Nodal Officer) whether it would be feasible to connect 163 hotels and guest house with common STPs installed at Brari Nambal and Nishat.
“It is not clear as to whether the STPs would be able to bear the additional burden of 163 hotels/guest houses. It would, therefore, be appropriate to direct the Nodal Officer nominated by the government to file the status report disclosing the capacity of STPs installed at Brari Nambal and Nishat and whether it would be feasible to discharge the solid waste and runoff in those common STPs.”
In another direction, the court also asked SPCB to file fresh status report about how many hotels in Srinagar have individual but functional STPs and how many of them are connected with the common STPs.
The fresh status shall also have to encompass capacities of STPs to deal with the solid waste and runoff, and as to whether it would be able to cope with the burden of effluent keeping in view the number of rooms, the bench said.
The directions by the court followed its observation that the compliance report by SPCB was not clear as to whether individual STPs have been installed by the hoteliers and if so how many hotels are operating on individual STPs and how many are connected or to be connected with the common STPs under category ‘A’ (having 20 more rooms and requiring an STP as per law).
Likewise, the court observed, the SPCB report was unclear about how many hotels under category ‘B’ (having rooms less than 19 but more than six) were non-operational.
In respect of place (state or own land) of installation of STPs, the court observed that SPCB has stated that the title of the land could not be verified at site on account of inclement weather conditions, particularly in Pahalgam and Gulmarg.
In the summer capital of Srinagar, as per PCB report, there are 243 hotels in category ‘A’. Of them, 170 hotels were granted consent by the SPCB while commercial operation of 107 hotels was suspended for not obtaining the consent and for operating without the facility of STPs, the report said.
The SPCB has revoked commercial operation of 11 hotels either for want of individual STP or getting connected to the common STPs. The SPCB has also stated that in three hotels—Hotel Comrade Inn (Rajbagh), Hotel Renaissance (Sonwar) and Ahdoos Hotel (Residency Road)—the STPs are under installation.
In category ‘B’ (having rooms less than 19 but more than six), Srinagar has 501 hotels as per SPCB report and it has given consent to 339 hotels.
The commercial operations of 53 hotels have been suspended while in case of 27 others, it is under process, the SPCB said. Besides, the SPCB said, it has also withdrawn the commercial operation of 46 hotels in category ‘B’.
The bench also directed government to prosecute the land grabbers in accordance with law “so that public faith in the governance of the state is restored.
It also directed government to charge penal rent and invoking the penal provisions of law against those leaseholders who occupy land more than allotted to them.
In respect of completion of the Draft Master Plan of Gulmarg, the government informed the court that it has been sent to the Secretary to Government Tourism and Cultural Department on March 7 for publishing it on its official website for seeking objections.
“We direct let follow up action be taken and the draft Master Plan of Gulmarg be published in accordance with the provisions of the Development Act. After inviting objections same may be finalized and the latest status report be filed on or before the next date of hearing (on May 6),” the bench added.
Meanwhile, LAWDA in its status report has stated that it has started charging fee from hoteliers for providing common STPs.
The hotels having less than 20 rooms have to pay Rs 1500 per month during season and Rs 1000 per month during the off season, the LAWDA said.
Likewise, the hotels having room capacity of 20 to 39 have to pay Rs 2000 per month during the season and Rs 1000 per month during the off season. Similarly, the hotels with capacity of more than 40 rooms have to pay Rs 3000 per month during the season and Rs 1500 per month during the off season. In addition to this, each household has to pay Rs 100 per month.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by one Rafiq Ahmad Zargar, seeking directions from the court for ensuring planned development and protection of environment and ecosystem of Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Srinagar and other adjoining areas.
Advocate General M I Qadri alongwith Mohsin Qadri appeared for official respondents while advocate Aijaz Chesti, amicus curie, assisted the court.