Ecologically fragile area around Golf Course falls to land mafia in Pahalgam

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/14/2021 8:27:43 PM

ESS AHMAD

ANANTNAG, Oct 13: Authorities might have framed new master plan for the world famous tourist resort, Pahalgam, after the old master plan which led to vandalisation and concretization of the famed spot was rejected by the high court but the designation of the ecologically fragile area around the golf course in the later have not only left the local residents fuming but environmentalists shocked as well. The environmentally sensitive and most scenic area around the international golf course having been designated as permissible zone for constructions came to fore after the land mafia shifted its focus on the area selling and purchasing precious land for last several months. A local social activist is mulling to move the court against the wrong doing by the authorities.

Older master plan in which the town planning organization had designated most of the scenic areas of Pahalgam as permissible areas leading to mushrooming of hotels and huts at the tourist spot was completely rejected by the high court in 2010 in response to the litigation filed by some locals. High court while declaring the master plan as full of flaws had asked the authorities to frame the new master plan for the famed spot and banned all kinds of constructions in the area. It took the authorities at least five years to come up with revised master plan. The master was finally approved by the cabinet led by the then chief minister Mufti Syed in 2015.

Though in the revised master plan, authorities designated almost entire Pahalgam as non-permissible but the area around the golf course, which was non-permissible even in the previous master plan was designated as permissible much to the surprise of locals and environmental activists.

"Since most of the Pahalgam was concretised and vandalised in the years when previous master plan was in place, golf course and its surroundings was the only area which stood preserved to a great extent. But one wonders how the authorities in the new master plan which was framed with the purpose to save the spot from further concretization designated such a scenic area as permissible," a local social activist, Mushtaq Pahalgami said.

He said that the designation of the ecologically fragile area as permissible for commercial constructions seems to be a deliberate move to benefit some well-connected riches.

Pahalgami also came up with a video message and sought the attention of those working on the preservation of nature towards the issue.

"We are well aware of this conspiracy and won't allow this beautiful area to turn into another concrete commercial colony," Pahalgami said. "We appeal the honorable high court which is keeping a close watch on Pahalgam for last ten years to save this ecologically fragile area in Pahalgam from vendalisation before the land mafia defaces it," Pahalgami said.

Many other locals who spoke to Kashmir Times said that the sale and purchase of the precious and beautiful land in the area has picked up pace in last one year.

"Since this was the only area which was untouched for its being non-permissible in previous master plan with the blessings of the authorities it too seems to have fallen to land mafia and will soon be like other places of Pahalgam which stand completely vandalised," said another local, Shabir Ahmad.

Sources in the PDA and town planning revealed to Kashmir Times that the area in the last hours of the finalisation of master plan was designated as permissible due to the political intervention.

"Since court was monitoring it closely people who framed the master plan were very careful and cautious in framing the new master plan but the then chief minister at the eleventh hour intervened and got the area designated as non-permissible," said a source.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, an RTI and environmental activist expressed shock over the designation of such ecologically fragile area around the golf course as permissible.

"Pahalgam has already been turned into a concrete jungle. It ceases to be a hill station now. It now resembles a city due to huge concretization and all this has happened due to the poor policies of the people at helm," Muzaffar said.

He said that the concretization around golf course will not only ravage the ecology of the area but will also deface the most scenic golf course on which crores of rupees are being spent every year. High court should take a note of it," Muzaffar said.

Town planner, Kashmir, Gulzar Ahmad admitted that the area was designated as permissible on the directions of the then chief minister Mufti Syed."We had not designated the area as permissible but it was done on the directions of the then chief minister even after the same had been submitted to the government for approval. God knows better weather it was his vision or compulsion,"

He said that they have mentioned about the directions of the then chief minister even in the preface of the master plan 2032.

Chief executive officer, Pahalgam development authority (PDA), Masrat Hashim said that the matter is not his jurisdiction.

"It is the town planning authorities who can redesignate this scenic area as non-permissible," CEO said.

 

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