ANANTNAG: High Court directives notwithstanding, authorities in South Kashmir have failed to remove encroachments from the Jhelum banks and most of the illegal structures along the river in twin districts of south Kashmir remain intact.
A division bench of the High Court in response to public interest litigation (PIL) filed after the September 2014 floods had directed the authorities to free the river banks of all the encroachments. The court had also directed the Irrigation and Flood Control department to take immediate measures to restore the river to its original glory. Following the court directions, the revenue authorities identified the illegal structures along the river banks in both the districts. But I&FC department has failed to demolish most of them.
In district Anantnag , the revenue department has identified a total of 210 illegal structures raised on Jehlum banks on a 15 km stretch from Khanabal to Sangam. These structures included residential houses, shops, toilets, sheds and Masjids. But so far only around 70 structures have been demolished. Executive Engineer flood control division, Anantnag admitted to have demolished only 72 structures from Jehlum banks but added that “a major demolition drive would be launched soon.”
“In December last when we launched a demolition drive in Boat Colony, Khanabal and adjacent areas and demolished at least fifteen structures. People held protests and blocked the road seeking rehabilitation. The protests forced us to stop the drive,” he said.
He said that the rehabilitation of the affected people is under process and once it is completed, all the illegal structures in the colony would be razed to ground. “They had been given some time to remove encroachments voluntarily,” he added. He said that notices have been issued to encroachers in Bijbehara, Zirpara and other villages where the illegal structures have been identified. “Once the notice period ends, we will go for the demolition drive. Deputy Commissioner is very much serious in implementing the High Court order,” he claimed. Besides, the officer said, department has removed at least 1.5 lakh trees from the banks of the river.
In neighboring Pulwama district, the authorities had identified at least 213 illegal structures and 36 boundary walls on the river banks. Out of the identified structures, only 90 have been bulldozed so far.
Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Niraj Kumar said that besides 90 structures around 1.76 lakh trees have been removed from the river banks.
When asked about the delay in removing all the encroachments, DC said they have to take care of the law and order as well while going for demolition.
“The process of demolition of illegal structures will continue,” DC said.