Authorities construct road, allow camping site in restricted area at Pahalgam

The Authorities have allowed the construction in the restricted area at Pahalgam for which the trees have been cut and a road is being built at Aru Valley. A camping site is now being raised next to the river Lidder and the construction activity is going on close to Sarshaar park.
Excavators and other heavy machinery has been pressed into service which have left the area ravaged and raised the environmental concerns. Governmnet has built an approach road and dug a large area which passes adjacent to river Lidder thereby leaving the “entire landscape damaged.’’
This follows after the bids for the construction of tentage site were issued to an” influential person” last year by the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA), according to sources. The construction activity which is going on has “destroying the ecosystem’’ of the place as the heavy machinery is used to remove the “green turf and vegetation in the area.” The area has been designated as a buffer zone and construction activity is prohibited here. Sources said that after the construction relative of a top Kashmiri politician will “run the camping site.’’
Environmental activists fear that the construction at the spot will “cause pollution and affect the fragile environs in this area.” The entire administration has been kept on toes to get the place ready before the coming summer, said an official of the Tourism department.
“There are clear guidelines regarding the buffer zones that no activity should be allowed in these fragile areas. A relative of a politican has secured the lease of one such patch of land from Aru side at Sarshaar Park. The bulldozers and other heavy machinery have totally ravaged the beauty of this place and any further activity will render this place lifeless,’’ said an official.
For the camping site construction of a concrete base is required for which the material has already been dumped at the spot. “We are against any such move and the authorities must stop the construction immediately,’’ said a local resident.
Environmental activists and experts said the government cannot “alter the topography to create any facility for running a business.” They blame the successive governments of vandalizing ecologically fragile area “like Pahalgam.’’
“Even for creating a camping site the authorities are supposed to seek proper permission from all the departments without which even a single tent can’t be put up in such sensitive zones”, said Chief Town Planner, Kashmir, Fayaz Ahmed Khan.
“The current government, as well as the previous one, used the system to benefit their own people. A close relative of a top politician has been provided permission to establish tentage site. Changing the topography and digging the slopes to construct a road in a buffer zone is violation of environmental norms. The authorities have caused an immense damage to the area already by using heavy machinery which should be stopped at the earliest”, said an activist.
Chief Executive Officer of Pahalgam Development Authority, Mushtaq Ahmed, said that they have halted the work after “a person who had been provided permission ventured towards the river area.”
“As part of eco-tourism we had approved a tentage site for 20 tents, last year, to a person who had sought the permission through e-tendering. The work was ongoing in the area since last many days but as they started digging near the river banks we sent a letter of disapproval to them and the work has been halted. The matter has been taken up with the grievance cell now and no further work will be allowed,’’ he said.

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