Srinagar: The state government on Thursday agreed to modify the Pollution Control Board (PCB) guidelines for Valley hotels to have their own Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs), bringing a sigh of relief to the hoteliers.
The decision was taken in a high level meeting of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with representatives of hoteliers associations in which Minister for Tourism Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday, Principal Secretaries, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and various administrative secretaries were present.
“In the meeting the government has agreed to modify the PCB guidelines and set up common STPs for the hoteliers in the Valley which will be done in a phased manner,” Showkat Chowdhary, president Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Association (KHARA) told Kashmir Reader.
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 also participated in the meeting.
Chowdhary said the government is planning to divide the different tourist areas of the Valley into three categories, where at least seven common STPs will be set up in three years.
“In the first phase we were told that in Srinagar city one sewerage scheme with 60 MLD STP is already in execution which is likely to be completed by March 2015,” said Chowdhary.
He said they had been asking the government to modify the guideline and set up common STP for long time as it was impossible for them to operate their own STPs.
“We are satisfied with the government’s decision,” said Chowdhary.
For last one year, the hotels and restaurants in the Valley have been facing action from the High Court for violating the PCB’s guidelines, 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.
Following the High Court order, the hoteliers had expressed resentment, saying that the action could be detrimental for the Valley’s tourism industry and that the guideline was “impractical”.
“It was not practical for the Valley hoteliers to follow the PCB guidelines and set up individual STPs as there was no land available to most of the hoteliers and it would have caused lot of problems in the residential areas,” said Fayaz Ahmad Bakshi, president Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF).
He said the hotel industry in the Valley was “deliberately targeted by the people with vested interests, otherwise there are same rules in other states which are not being followed.”
He said that they are now relieved with the government’s decision.