ANANTNAG: Forest Department has raised strong objections against Pahalgam Development Authority’s (PDA) “unauthorised and illegal” move to lease the picturesque Baisaran land to a local contractor.
Four kilometers from Pahalgam town, Baisaran is a green pasture surrounded by tall green alpines. The spot is emerging as one of the favorite tourist destinations in the district for its greenery.
Until last year, the place was under the ‘illegal’ control of Municipal Committee Pahalgam (MCP) which used to charge entry fee to the tourists.
The MCP had also started ‘Zorbing ride’ on the slopes during the last tourist season causing damage to the greenery of the area, forest department officials said.
Fearing degradation of the land, the forest department barred the local body from carrying out any activity in the ecologically fragile spot.
Sources said that only a year after taking the control of Biasaran, the PDA, this year, has leased out the tourist spot against a huge amount allegedly without the consent of the forest department.
They said that immediately after learning about the outsourcing of the scenic forest area by the development authority, a team of forest officials led by divisional forest officer, rushed to the spot and dismantled the entry post which was erected by the contractor there.
Divisional Forest Officer, Lidder forest division, Himayun Kabeer, confirmed that they have removed the post which was installed at the entrance of the spot.
“Besides removing the post, I have shot a letter to CEO, PDA, asking him as to how they leased the forest land without seeking permission from the department,” the DFO told Kashmir Reader.
He said that though in the district board meeting chaired by the then chief minister, Omar Abdullah last year, it was decided that the PDA will pay one crore rupees to the forest department for fencing and other maintenance of the spot, only 40 lakh rupees have be released so far. “PDA cannot lease out the property of the Forest department. It is violation of the Forest Conservation Act,” he said.
He said that MCP had already caused huge damage to the greenery and environs of the area. “We cannot allow it to be degraded further,” DFO said.
Admitting that the area belongs to the Forest department, CEO, PDA, Riyaz Ahmad Wani said that they have provided money to the forest authorities for the fencing and maintenance of the spot.
He, however, feigned ignorance about the removal of the entry post by the Forest department and the letter shot to him by the DFO. “I don’t have any idea about the letter or the removal of the post at the spot by forest officials. We were supposed to pay the money to them and we did that.”
“I don’t think they will object but even then I will check it out tomorrow in the office,” CEO said.