Srinagar: A hotelier claims that Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) and wildlife department permitted him to construct a two-storey restaurant adjacent to his guesthouse, River Front Resort, in Aru Valley’s wildlife zone.
The hotelier, Dr Ehsan, told Kashmir Reader that he constructed the restaurant three-months back after obtaining a No Objection Certificate from both PDA and the wildlife department.
“I have 1 Kanal and 18 marlas of land in wildlife area in Aru. I got proper permission from PDA and Wildlife department for construction of the restaurant. You can check the records,” Dr Ehsan told Kashmir Reader.
PDA chief executive officer Riyaz Ahmad, however, denied that permission has been granted for the construction, citing 2010 high court order banning all constructions in PDA’s jurisdiction.
Kashmir Reader has learnt that wildlife authorities were tipped off about the illegal restaurant but they sat over the complaint. In fact, two field officials in the department facilitated the hotelier to raise the building.
When public pressure mounted on the authorities, a team of PDA removed a few tin sheets off the restaurant’s roof but only after the construction work had been completed, sources said.
“But the building is intact and operational. After the PDA officials removed the tin sheets, the hotelier covered the rooftop with tarpaulin,” an official said.
Recently, after much public outcry, the wildlife department was forced to seek a report on the structure, a fact corroborated by Anantnag wildlife warden Mohammad Maqbool Baba.
Baba, however, said he was not sure whether the restaurant land was located in wildlife zone, adding his department and PDA will inspect the site to check if any violation has taken place.
The high court has banned constructions in the areas that come under PDA’s jurisdiction after a PIL was filed by Pahalgam residents.
In the wake of the ban, public works department and semi-government agencies have to seek written permission from the departments concerned for any construction work.