ANANTNAG: The topmost officer in charge of Lidder forest division, which includes Pahalgam, had asked various government departments last year to act against the persons who have constructed more than 200 structures—huts, hotels, guest houses—on forest land illegally. He is still waiting for a reply.
Forest officials had noticed these constructions, both residential and commercial, during demarcation of forest land.
Divisional forest officer Humayun Kabir told Kashmir Reader that about 227 structures have been constructed on the encroached forest land in the municipal limits of Pahalgam only.
Kabir said soon after discovering these structures, he had written to Pahalgam Development Authority, Public Health Engineering and Power Development Department to snap water and power supply to them.
“So far, there has been no response on their part,” he said, adding, “some of the structures are more than a decade old”.
“I cannot go for demolition of the structures. I did what I was supposed to do as per law. Other agencies concerned should also play their role and cooperate with us,” the DFO said.
He said that some of these encroachers have even managed to register the land in their name.
Javed Ahmad, who lives in Pahalgam, said the forest land has been virtually put on sale in the most-visited tourist spot.
“Both local residents and people from other areas have encroached on government land in connivance with officials… forests have been vandalized,” he said.
In January this year, the PDA had demolished 13 illegal structures in Pahalgam, its peripheries and Lidder banks in Khelan, Movera, Lidroo, Branward, Rangward, Pahalgam market and Sadhupadaw.
However, many local residents say the illegal structures constructed by some influential hoteliers in forested areas have been spared the axe.
However, the outgoing chief executive officer PDA M Y Bhat said it was he who informed the DFO about the encroachment and other violations.
“I even offered him all the possible assistance in the form of men and machinery if he goes for demolition of the illegal structures on the forest land,” Bhat said. He said that DFO is authorised to act against the encroachers of the forest land. “Although it was not my jurisdiction, I demolished dozens of illegal structures in forest and wildlife zones. Without bothering about the consequences, I took a tough stand against the land mafia during my period as CEO, PDA,” he said.