Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has asked government to file by June 5 a status report regarding installation of common Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) to the hotels in Srinagar and specify timeframe within which it could be completed.
The direction was issued by a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar while hearing a Public Interest Litigation, seeking to ensure planned development and protection against pollution of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Srinagar.
The direction followed submission by advocate Z A Qureshi, counsel for some of the hoteliers, who suggested that the provisions of common STPs in Srinagar city may be made at the earliest and they are prepared to contribute half of the price.
He also suggested that till the time Common STPs are made available, hoteliers may be permitted to install soakage pits by restricting operation for 19 rooms only.
As per pollution norms, an STP is only required for the hotels having 20 or more rooms.
Advocate Qureshi also submitted that on account of seasonal work in the city of Srinagar, it may not be possible for hoteliers to wait till the facility of Common STPs is made available.
In another direction, the bench also sought status from State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) about the STPs in hotels across the state.
The direction by the bench followed perusal of the status report filed by the SPCB, indicating that in Srinagar, among 244 category-A hotels (requiring STP) functioning in the Srinagar, 72 hotels are connected to common STPs whereas 13 hotels have their individual STPs.
The SPCB stated that future connectivity of hotels to the common STPs is to be assessed by UEED and LAWDA because at this stage it was not known as to how much of sewage from residential area is presently catered by the common STPs and whether they would be able to cater any further load or not.
In respect of Jammu division, the SPCB stated that the action against the defaulting hoteliers has been initiated in a phased manner taking category-A hotels for action on priority.
It said that there are 39 hotels functioning in Katra and 15 hotels are operating at Patnitop and that their commercial operations have been suspended as they were found to be without STPs.
Secretary, SPCB Arun Kumar Tickoo, who was present in the court, said that the Board will proceed against the hotels operating in the Jammu city.
He said there are 30 hotels in category-A which are without facility of STPs and no consent from the Board has been obtained either.
“The latest report, discussing the status of STPs in these areas, has to be furnished,” the court directed.
Regarding the status of STPs in category ‘A’ hotels at Gulmarg, the SPCB said that 12 out of 15 hotels have installed the STPs.
Tickoo said that on March 27 last during his visit, he found that only two Hotels were left with nonfunctional STPs.
Subsequently, he said the hotels—Hotel Royal Park and Hotel Poshwan were sealed in presence of the Magistrate.
However, Tickoo said, the hotels have made STPs functional and have been according desealed on April 15 last.
Likewise, he said Hotel Khaleel Palace was also sealed by the SPCB in respect of un-consented 17 rooms raised in addition to the consented capacity of 15 rooms.
“The Hotel has now Installed STPs of 20 KLD which is functional.
Accordingly sealing order in respect of 17 rooms has also been withdrawn paving way to grant consent to the Hotel under rules.”
Regarding Pahalgam, the SPCB said that out of 35 category-A hotels, only 11 had installed STPs and 5 alone were found to have their STPs functioning.
“Only 5 hotels are permitted to undertake their commercial operations. The Board has not revoked the order of suspension,” the SPCB said, in response to direction issued previously by the court, seeking clarification about functioning of STPs installed in 11 hotels under category-A.
In another direction, the bench also directed the SPCB to file status about category-B hotels (having less than 19 but more than six rooms) in respect of all the major cities in the State.
Earlier the SPCB informed that no hotel without septic tank or soakage pit has been allowed to resume commercial operations at Pahalgam.
The SPCB said that among the 55 hotels, only 37 were allowed to resume commercial operations after ensuring that all of them have septic tank or soakage pit of desired level in place.
“The remaining 18 hotels continue to be under the direction of suspension of commercial operations.” However, the observed that the Board is at pains to explain that septic tank or soakage pit is gravity based natural and nonmechanical method of treating the sewage in bio-logical manner.
Further, it said, no details of category-B hotels at Srinagar, Gulmarg or other hotels operating in Patnitop, Katra and Jammu have been placed on record.
Regarding direction about ensuring that the STPs are installed in the propriety land of the hotels and no encroachment is permitted, government said that help of the revenue department was required.
“It is not understood as to why at the first instance hoteliers were not directed to install STPs on their propriety land only. In any case status report after demarcation be submitted before the next date of hearing.”
The Division Bench also directed SPCB and tourism department to completely furnish details about STPs in the Government accommodations like Circuit Houses, East & West, Guest Houses, East & West at Srinagar or the hotels for Darbar-Move employees and likewise various Government Guest Houses at Jammu, have not been completely furnished.
“The (SPCB) and other concerned departments shall furnish the status of working of STPs in all these places.”
Regarding the finalizing of Master Plan of Gulmarg, the court direct that the government to file latest status by June 5 with regard to it.
The court also reiterated its February 4 order, directing the Deputy Commissioner, Baramulla, to determine the areas encroached upon by the lessees over and above the leased area or demarcation was to be made so as to identify un-authorized occupants of the land.
After high court granted bail to him, Khan had appeared before the Investigation Officer and after about an hour investigation, he was released on bail and later allowed to join assembly, then in budget session. He was charged by the police on April 3.