SRINAGAR: As State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) is all set to suspend commercial operations of 230 more hotels, the Valley hoteliers on Thursday threatened to shut down all hotels, guest houses, and restaurants against the move they believe “was planned to destroy economy of Kashmir.”
“Some elements want to destroy economy of Kashmir. Initially, they targeted horticulture and handicrafts like sectors, now they have their shifted focus to the tourism industry, the backbone of our economy. It is being done under a plan,” said Showkat Chowdhary, president of Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurants Associations (KHARA).
“We will wait for two weeks for the government to withdraw the guidelines or to extend the same also to Katra and Jammu regions, which have been given a let off so far. If the government doesn’t act, all hotels and restaurants will close down and handover keys to it in protest,” Chowdhary told reporters at a joint news conference with Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF) president GM Dug, and Faiz Bakhshi, chairman co-ordination committee of the two associations.
The hoteliers’ threat comes in the wake of latest directions of the J&K High Court asking for closure of the hotels or restaurants not having individual and operational Sewerage Treatment Plants (STP). A division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi had passed the orders last week while hearing a Public Interest Litigation.
The court had last year sealed several hotels and restaurants across the Valley for violating the SPCB guidelines of each hotel with 20 or more rooms having a separate STP. The action was first taken against hotels and restaurants in tourist destinations of Pahalgam and Gulmarg, and was later extended to hotels in Srinagar.
Later KHARA and KHAROF—two major associations representing hoteliers and restaurant owners across Valley—pleaded the case of hoteliers and got a breather. And now, they are contesting both the applicability of SPCB guidelines and the intentions behind the action against hotels.
“No hotelier can afford to set up and run a separate STP because of the cost, unavailability of space and expertise, and the climatic condition here. Why does SPCB ignore all of it? Why do such guidelines exist for hotels in the Valley only? Why were the hotels in Jammu or Katra not sealed for ignoring the guidelines,” they asked.
Saying that the neighbouring tourist states like Himachal Pradesh do not require their hotels to have STPs, they said, “It is simply a conspiracy to damage tourism industry in Kashmir perhaps to help the other tourist states. SPCB is ignoring. Tourism season is about to begin, and we expect major losses due to likely closure of the hotels.”