Pahalgam hoteliers ignore official warnings, continue to operate illegally

SHABIR AHMAD
PAHALGAM: Even after being penalized by the authorities for operating illegally, many influential hoteliers and hut owners continue to violate the norms by carrying on their illegal commercial operation at the cost of fragile environs of this tourist spot.
The Tourism authorities last month imposed fine on several hoteliers and hut owners after they were found flouting laws at Yanner, a fast emerging tourist destination. The officials had also warned the violators of sealing their outlets if they did not stop illegal operation.
“However, ignoring the warnings, the hoteliers and hut owners restarted their illegal operation only a few days after being penalized,” locals told Kashmir Reader.
At least one dozen hotels and huts were constructed illegally on Lidder banks in the area during last few years. All of them could be seen operating illegally.
“The officials visit the spot occasionally and leave after issuing warnings to the violators. If anyone ignores the warning even after being fined, the officials are authorized to seal his outlet. They however seem to be non-serious,” said Mohammad Shafi, a local resident.
Another local, Mohammad Ishaq, said that none of the hotels at the spot has a sewage treatment plant or any other pollution control device; with the result the sewage produced directly empties into the Lidder.
“The hoteliers here operate at the cost of the waters of Lidder. You can see them using the water body as sewage channel. One wonders how the authorities allow fragile environs of Pahalgam to be ravaged,” Shafi said.
Officials of the Tourism Department and Pahalgam Development Authority pass the buck.
“I many a time fined the violators and even warned them. I am not silent and I am trying my best to stop the illegal operation by hoteliers in the area,” Assistant Director Tourism, Pahalgam, Tariq Ahmad told Kashmir Reader.
He however said the PDA officials are not cooperating with him. “Most of the hoteliers have applied for the registration and tell me that their documents are pending with PDA. I many a time wrote to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), PDA asking him whether he is going to issue NoCs to these hoteliers. However, there is no response on his part. It is not the job of the Tourist Department only. PDA also has a role to stop the violations by hoteliers,” the Tourism officer said.
But CEO, PDA, Riyaz Ahmad Wani, rejected charges of the Tourism official. He said it is the job of the Tourism department only to check violations by hoteliers.
“Tourism officials know well that all the hotels and huts in the area are illegal. So I wonder what they want to know from my side. No files are pending with me. Some hoteliers had applied for NoC which they were denied,” Wani said.
“Had it been my jurisdiction I would have sealed all of them,” he added.