SRINAGAR: Every now and then, the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) and Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), the civic bodies mandated to regulate building permissions in Kashmir, blame people for illegal and unauthorised constructions. Teams of these two civic bodies are often seen demolishing structures, or sealing them, because these have been constructed in violation of the laws. But are the laws really protecting the city?
Consider the case of Mr A, a resident of Rainawari, who owns a plot measuring less than seven marlas. Mr A intends to construct a new house. He applied for permission to construct a 1,000 sq feet house, a permission which was not granted. He was asked to restrict the house to less than 650 sq feet. These dimensions were not fulfilling his requirements. He has a 10-member family.
Mr A waited for nearly six months to go through the official procedure, only to be left disappointed. Today he has no legal options to construct his house as per his needs. During the time he spent on the permission process, six structures have come up in and around his locality, all without any permission. None of them did go through the official permission route, Mr A told Kashmir Reader.
Mr A’s case is a reflection on the existing laws which regulate the construction activity in the city. As per the existing rules, any house to be constructed in a permissible zone has to leave space on all the four sides of the house with dimensions up to 10 feet. Anyone who does not do so won’t get the permission. The government is strict in implementing the laws despite there being serious land shortage in the city.
Vice Chairman LAWDA, Bashir Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader that he does not have any say in the rules being framed. He has the power to implement them only, he said.
“The laws are being framed by the Town Planner’s office. They are in the best position to answer,” he added.
The existing laws create another problem for the people. Those who have purchased land around the Habbak area are not given permission despite it falling under the permissible zone. The reason is that the government intends to build a housing colony in the area, and until that plan is executed or decided, no permission will be granted to others. The people, meanwhile, choose the illegal route to build the structures they need.
“Why not? These laws are only taking away from us our fundamental right of residing at our birthplace. We are not against the housing colony, but let them come up with one in a way that we don’t suffer. Every law can be defied if it hits our survival,” said a 65-year-old who is constructing a house at Habbak.
The old master plan for Srinagar often met with criticism for its faulty vision. The new one is no better. Although it has offered solutions to some of the issues, it is still not foolproof. It only tweaks the earlier existing dimensions for permitted building constructions. Now it will be replaced by a new law, the BOCA 2019. It has diametrically opposite dimensions of the existing master plan. But until it is implemented, people have to suffer.
“The framing of the regulations is not up to one department. It is a joint effort. These issues will remain for some time until the system works in tandem,” said a senior official from the Town Planner’s office. \