Srinagar: Apart from making the dead turn in their graves by draining waste water into a graveyard, Taj Vivanta hotel on Kralsangri hills has played havoc with the eco-system as well. Following the construction of the hotel in an ecologically fragile area, many landslides and incidents of soil erosion have been reported. Hundreds of fruit bearing trees around the hotel have been either uprooted or damaged.
“We are watching helplessly as we can’t do anything. We spoke to Taj Vivanta management as well as government officials many times, but nothing seems to be working. When we leave our orchards in the late hours, they (Vivanta) drain waste water and damage our trees. Our trees have gone now and I work as a labourer to support my family,” said Showket, a local resident who claimed to be an orchardist.
Locals have also accused the Taj Vivanta management of constructing new huts on pasture and Dankar (walkway) land illegally, in a green belt area while locals are not even allowed to raise a cowshed by the authorities.
Abdul Ahad Bhat, another local resident while talking to Kashmir Reader said, “It is not a hotel but a colony that is expanding with every passing day. They are occupying pasture land illegally.”
Illegal constructions on encroached land are not the only issue with Taj Vivanta. It is giving sleepless nights to local residents as fire crackers and loud music during late-night parties have become a constant irritant. “We can’t sleep at night and our children can’t study due to the noise produced at Taj. Sometimes we get scared when they use firecrackers. At times, they party almost the whole night with loud music on,” Bhat said.
Abdul Rashid, a resident of Brein, Nishat said, “We are ready to relocate rather than living in such conditions. Hotel owners provided us some compensation last year but that is not enough to maintain our land,” he said.
“We received Rs 20,000 as compensation while as the loss runs into lakhs. We are forced to relocate as the government is not taking any action against the hotel despite many complaints filed so far,” Rashid said.
Abdul Gafar Mir, President Brein Residents’ Association told Kashmir Reader that Taj owners ‘show no respect for ecology and the lives of local people’. He alleged that the hotel was constructed illegally on Kralsangri while as the registration papers are for Meebagh, Dampora, Jan Mohalla and Baba Ghulam Din mountains. “We are waiting for government formation so that we can file a complaint for effective action,” he added.
Divisional Commissioner Srinagar, Asghar Samoon while talking to Kashmir Reader said, “I haven’t received any such complaint till now. Anyone from the area can contact me and I’ll look into the matter.”
Locals claimed they had contacted PDP legislator Ashraf Mir to resolve the problem. But Mir denied having any information about the drainage problems. He, however, said that he has ‘looked into every grievance of the locals’ and has ‘given space for four new graveyards’.
“I never received any complaint regarding Taj from the locals. I have taken action against garbage disposal near the graveyard and have given space for four new graveyards in the area for local use. If they (locals) have any other problems, they can contact me directly,” Mir said.
On his part, the owner of Taj Vivanta, Mohammad Altaf, said, “We do organise late-night parties but we take prior permission from the concerned authorities. I don’t exactly remember as to how many parties we organise a month. We don’t burst fire crackers (sic).”
He, however, could not clarify which authority such permission is sought from.
He also denied that sewage from the hotel flows into the area. “We have Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) installed in the premises. It may be rain water which flows into the area and creates problems for locals,” Altaf said.