Environmental activists demand action against all influential land grabbers

ANANTNAG: A day after the Vigilance Organisation of Kashmir (VOK) booked congress leader and former PHE minister, Taj Mohiudin for grabbing the forest land in Shopian district, environmental activists demanded action against all the bigwigs who having encroached upon the prized forest land at Pahalgam.
Environmental lawyer Nadeem Qadri said the registration of case against Taj Mohiudin was a step towards bringing accountability and transparency in the state.
However, he said, the law enforcement agencies should act against everyone who has grabbed the forest, particularly in Pahalgam.
“Booking a powerful politician like Taj for land grabbing is what we were looking for. The VOK must be the given the credit of acting against him without succumbing under any political pressure. But what we demand is that all the influential people involved in forest land grabbing should be taken to task,” he told Kashmir Reader.
During a survey last year, the officials of the Lidder forest division identified more than 250 structures built on the forest land.
The structures, according to officials, included residential houses, hotels, huts, guesthouses, and shops belonging to influential people.
An official of the forest division said they had written to the concerned authorities several times to snap the water and power supply to the commercial structures that have come up illegally on the forest land.
“But nothing was done,” he said, wishing anonymity.
Qadri, however, said that besides the constructions on forest land, dozens of constructions “have and are” coming up in ecologically-fragile Aru.
“Our group is working on how many structures have come up in the wild life zone in Pahalgam and who allowed these structures,” Qadri said.
He said that more than one hundred cases of land grabbing were pending before many law enforcement agencies including the Accountability Commission and High Court.
“We will force the government to start investigations into all the forest land grabbing cases and take the encroachers and officials, who facilitated the encroachments and constructions on forest land, to task,” he said.
An environmenalt activist Mushtaq Pahalgami said there were many A-class hotels constructed on the forest land at Pahalgam. “In the entire Pahalgam resort, the prized forest and wild life areas have been encroached upon by the influential people under the political and official patronage. Pahalgam has virtually turned into a concrete jungle,” Pahalgami told Kashmir Reader.