STP issue: Govt to meet hoteliers today for final call

SRINAGAR: The state government is holding a high level meeting with hoteliers on Thursday wherein the Pollution Control Board’s guideline for each hotel to have an “unaffordable” Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is likely to be modified.
The meeting between Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, senior ministers of his Cabinet, and representatives of hoteliers is scheduled to take place at Civil Secretariat here. And the government, after holding a series of meetings with the hoteliers, is expected to take the final call over the issue that has so far resulted in ban on commercial activities of about 100 hotels across the Valley.
“We have so far held many rounds of meetings with the government, and it (the government) has agreed to provide us with common STPs rather than making us set up the facility individually. The CM has called a meeting on Thursday to make, and probably announce, its final decision over the matter,” Showkat Chowdhary, president Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Association (KHARA), told Kashmir Reader on Wednesday.
Chowdhary, along with president of the Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF), head of the hoteliers’ coordination committee, and a representative of hoteliers from Pahalgam, is participating in the meeting.
For last one year, the hotels and restaurants in the Valley have been facing action from the High Court for violating the Pollution Control Board’s guideline, which requires every hotel having 20 rooms or more to set up and maintain its own STP.
Seeking adherence to the guideline, the court has forced big hotels, mostly in Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg, to operate only 19 rooms until they set up their own STPs.
Some of the hoteliers, however, have been opposing the court directions as well as the guideline, saying that the action could be detrimental for the Valley’s tourism industry and that the guideline was “impractical”.
“We have been asking the government to modify the guideline so that we don’t have to set up and operate our own STPs. Our demand is based on the realisation that individual STPs are unaffordable for the hoteliers,” Chowdhary, himself a hotelier, said.
“We want the government to set up common STPs. And, in turn, we would pay for using them as is done in most other states,” he added.
If the demand is approved, the hoteliers would also seek a time period from the government during which they must connect with the common STPs, Chowdhary said.
“Once the guideline is modified, the ban on commercial activities of big hotels will be automatically lifted while the moratorium will allow us to connect with STPs in due course of time,” he said.
“It remains to be seen whether the government takes the final decision on Thursday or leaves it to the next Cabinet meeting,” he added.