‘Meadow of Gold’ loses its glitter

Unplanned, illegal constructions continue unabated in Sonamarg 
The ‘Meadow of Gold’ Sonamarg is fast losing its charm, thanks to the failure of the successive governments to prevent unplanned and illegal constructions from coming up at the world famous tourist resort.
A number of concrete structures- including hotels, restaurants and even residential houses- have sprouted in Sonamarag. “These days Sonamarg seems to be turning into a residential colony due to the mushroom growth of unplanned constructions in recent past,” a local resident said.
“Many influential people who had sought permission for a single residential hut or even those who have no permission are raising structures in the vicinity of their hotels and huts in areas like Sarbal, Lashpathri and Gadkul,” he added.
The local residents alleged that Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA) was not doing anything to check violation of building permission norms, adding that even forest area of Lashpathri has not been spared.
“We fail to understand how these influential people manage to ferry construction material into Sonamarg in the first place,” they said.
Constructions are going on unabated in the eco-fragile and avalanche-prone areas. The local residents fear that these constructions can prove catastrophic in case of natural disasters.
“There used to greenery all around and we used to graze our cattle in upper reaches but what we see nowadays here is hotels and huts,” an elderly resident Ghulam Rasool said.
Sources said in violation of the rules some influential people have raised concrete constructions in wildlife zone in connivance with some officials.
Sources said the inordinate delay by the state government to conduct Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is taking heavy toll on its fragile environs.
Shakeel Ramshoo, head of the Earth Sciences department at Kashmir University, said concrete constructions pose threat to the environment. He said under a notification issued by state government only 44 hectares of land were allowed for the urbanization and construction purpose “but almost 100 hectares of land has already been covered under constructions”.
“Unregulated and haphazard constructions can be detrimental for Sonamarg which has many glaciers. If government wants to save remaining areas of Sonamarg from vandalization, they must restrict any such haphazard construction. Tourists don’t come to see big hotels and residential huts here, they come to enjoy the natural beauty, landscapes, and glaciers of this place” he added.
Official sources revealed that at least fifty new constructions came up in Sonamarg in the recent past.
Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) has sought immediate ban on haphazard constructions.
“Sonamarg has great potential for adventure tourism but it is witnessing concretization,” President TAAK Peerzada Fayaz Ahmed said.
Chief Executive Officer Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA), Shabir Ahmed didn’t respond to repeated phone calls by this reporter.


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