Kashmir hoteliers, traders condemn closure of hotels at Lal Chowk

SRINAGAR: Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA-D) led by its chairman Farooq Ahmad Dar and Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association (KHARA) have expressed serious concern over the closure of seven hotels in Lal Chowk area.
In a joint statement, KEA and KHARA said closure of hotels in the peak tourism season was aimed at sabotaging the growing tourism industry in Kashmir.
State Pollution Control Board (PCB) Tuesday sealed the five hotels in Lal Chowk area who had failed to install Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs).
Ad hoc Chairman KEA Farooq Dar said despite assurance from government and approval of the decision in cabinet that STPs would be constructed, the hotels have been closed.
President KHARA Showkat Chowdhary said the decision of state Govt under its recent order vide no 221-FST of 2014 asked PCB not to seal hotels constructed before 2010.
“Government in this order asked the PCB not to seal the hotels constructed before the year 2010 if they are without STPs. Government in its order said these hotels would be connected with the common STPs that will be constructed by the government. PCB is violating it government orders and closing hotels,” said Chowdhary.
The KHARA President said in another government order vide SRO No:475 TSM of2013 Dated:29- 11- 2013 under which it has decided to set up common STPs for waste water generated from the hotels in the cities of Srinagar and Jammu contradicts its actions on ground.
“It is not possible for the hoteliers in Lal Chowk to construct STPs. In Lal Chowk, government doesn’t even have a space to build lavatory points. How can all hoteliers in Lal Chowk area construct individual STPs? There is no logic in this ban. The hotels have been constructed many years ago, when there were no such guidelines,” said Chowdhary.
The hotel association also flayed PCB for only imposing laws in Kashmir region and leaving out Jammu, Katra and Ladakh where, they said, tourist inflow is much higher than Kashmir.
“PCB is implementing decisions in Jammu region only verbally but in Srinagar it acts and ensures closure of hotels. This clearly speaks of double standard and a move aimed at hampering tourism season,” said Chowdhary.
Farooq Dar said Jammu region was always favored while Kashmir was ignored.
He said from the allocation of funds to implementing ban on hotels, Kashmir was sidelined.
He said Jammu regions get more pilgrim tourists and its hotels should have been sealed first “but law has been enforced in Kashmir only and Jammu, Katra have been spared”.
The hoteliers said that it is impossible to keep an individual STP functional in an average hotel located in a place like Kashmir when it has to have a minimum temperature of 20 degrees to keep bacteria alive.
“But it is not possible to keep STPs functional throughout the year. There should be a constant flow of waste, serving as a feed to bacteria which can’t be managed because of zero/low occupancy in hotels of Kashmir,” said KHARA President.
Both KHARA and KEA appreciated government for issuing orders to PCB and also taking up the project of constructing common STPs.
“Government should now construct STPs quickly which will help resolve this issue. Hoteliers have been put under lot of pressure during this peak season. Hoteliers are willing to pay for the usage charges for STPs.”