PAHALGAM: In September last year, when the cabinet headed by then-chief minister approved the revised master plan for Pahalgam, the residents of this tourist destination heaved a sigh of relief with the hope that they would finally be able to repair their damaged houses and commercial structures.
But seven months later, the authorities are yet to implement the approved master plan, with the people left fuming over the delay.
“It took the authorities at least five years to finalise the draft master plan and to subsequently submit it to the government. Now when the master plan stands approved, they have been deliberately delaying its implementation for the last seven months,” said Ghulam Nabi, a local who is also the president of Tourist Taxi Stand.
The delay, he said, seems “intentional” so as to “benefit some influential people who have purchased land in the areas designated as non-permissible in the revised master plan”.
In 2010, the High Court, responding to the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Pahalgam Welfare Association, imposed a blanket ban on all constructions and repairs in Pahalgam area.
And in 2011, the court observed that the 2005-2025 master plan was full of flaws, and directed the authorities to revise it.
The government constituted a four-member committee for framing the draft master plan, keeping in view the ecological sensitivity of the area.
After being reprimanded by the court for delay in finalising the plan, the authorities, in 2014, made the draft public. It asked the public, particularly the stakeholders, for suggestions and objections.
The authorities assured the locals in presence of then-MLA Pahalgam that all their suggestions would be taken care of. They also assured that there would be no scope left in the new master plan for further vandalising the environment. The draft was to be finalised with a few months.
Finally, in September last year, the cabinet, chaired by then-chief minister Mufti Mohammad Syed, approved the revised master plan titled ‘Pahalgam 2032’.
However, the wait for its implementation seems nearing no end.
Javed Ahmad, a resident, said the delay in implementing the master plan has already benefited a lot of well-connected and rich people, who have managed to erect hotels, huts, and other commercial structures on the prohibited land.
“Many influential people had purchased land in the ecologically-fragile areas. And the authorities, by causing delay in revising the plan, gave them enough time to raise constructions there before the same is being declared green zone,” Ahmad said.
“Now the delay in implementation is done for those whose commercial structures are yet to be completed. You can see the major renovation going on in many hotels and huts in many areas in and around the tourist spot having been designated as green zone,” he said.
Mushtaq Pahalgami, an environmental activist, added that it was only the permanent inhabitants of Pahalgam who have been suffering due to the ban on constructions and repairs.
“There was no end to destruction of environment even after the ban was imposed as the PDA authorities implemented the same only on poor locals. The rich non-local people managed to erect huge structures and carry out major repairs during ban period while as the poor locals are not even permitted to repair the residential houses,” Pahalgami said.
“Everybody knows the reason behind the delay first in framing the master plan and now in its implementation,” he said.
Director tourism, Mehmood Ahmad Shah, said they need to take the consent of the court for implementation of the new master plan.
Asked why they could not take it in seven months, he said: “Actually we don’t have any major role in its implementation. It is basically the concern of PDA authorities.”
Commissioner secretary tourism, Sandeep Naik, said he would look into it.