Five years on, authorities fail to revise master plan for Pahalgam

SHABIR AHMAD

PAHALGAM: Five years have passed since the High Court issued directions to revise and implement a new master plan for this world famous tourist resort; however, no attempt has been made by the authorities in this regard so far.
The locals alleged that the ‘deliberate delay’ in framing the new master plan was a part of nexus between the authorities and ‘influential people’ who were illegally construction hotels and huts in the area.
The high court in response to the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a local group, Pahalgam peoples Welfare association, imposed ban on all kinds of constructions at the tourist spot. Court also directed the authorities to frame new master plan for the tourist spot after finding the old one full of flaws. The government later formed a committee comprising of deputy commissioner Anantnag, chief executive officer Pahalgam Development Authority, Director Tourism and chief town planner for revision of the master plan.
However five years have passed, the authorities are yet to come up with the new master plan.
Locals alleged that the delay in the finalization of new master plan was a deliberate attempt on part of authorities to pave way for more illegal constructions by the rich and politically well connected people. “It is the irony that the authorities have failed to frame the master plan in five years despite being grilled by the court time and again,” said a local, Ghulam Nabi.
“After taking suggestions from the locals and other stakeholders last year, the authorities assured that the plan will be finalised with the inclusion of suggestions. But now eight months have passed since then master plan is nowhere,” he said adding that the delay is aimed to give time to the rich and influential people to construct or complete their illegal constructions in the areas which have been designated as green zones in revised master plan.
A local social activist, Mushtaq Pahalgami said that the land mafia in nexus in nexus with the rich and influential hotliers scuttled the entire process of framing the master plan for their worst interests.
“Though the chief town planner had worked honestly and seriously in framing the master plan and submitting the same to the government for approval of the same but the land mafia which put the tourist spot on virtual sale scuttled the entire process,” Pahalgami said.
He said that most of the people who have purchased the land in Pahalgam or are constructing the hotels illegally dont want the new master plan be approved. “They know the approval of new plan might restrict their illegal activities,” he said.
He said that the locals are badly suffering due to the ban on constructions in the area. “The ban on constructions in the area did not make any difference for rich and politically influential people as the authorities during last five years allowed them to go for new constructions or repairs against the huge sums. It is the poor locals who are suffering as they are not being allowed even minor repairs of their houses,” Pahalgami said.
He said that locals can get some respite only after the new master plan is approved. “So if the government wants to provide some relief to the locals it should approve the new plan without any further delay,” he said.
However CEO, PDA, M Y Bhat said that they have submitted the new plan to the government and are awaiting its approval. “The plan was submitted to the previous government only but that did not approve the same. Now new government is in place and we are hopeful that it will approve the new plan on priority,” CEO said.

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