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HTcorrespondent , Hindustan Times
Srinagar, July 05, 2013
Just 40 days after the state cabinet approved a master plan for central Kashmir's upcoming tourist destination of Yusmarg, there is a secret move to violate the same by shifting the tourist reception centre (TRC) to benefit a politician and a few influential people.
The Yusmarg Development Authority (YDA), in Budgam district, 47 km away from Srinagar, last week marked a piece of land and dug trenches for the TRC, which is around 1 km away from the place earmarked in the master plan.


Chief minister Omar Abdullah approved the master plan on May 21 this year in a cabinet meeting. The plan for 2013-27 has come up after three years of consultations. Around Rs. 20 lakh has already been spent on the base area for the multi-facility TRC as per the master plan.
 


Sources said the construction of the new TRC facility ahead of the designated place will help a senior ruling National Conference leader and a few influential people, who have land adjacent to the site identified for the TRC.


 The violations are being carried out despite the irrigation department's warnings to the YDA that the new infrastructure will pollute two main water sources - Kashi canal and Munshi canal -flowing in its backyard. 


 In its warning note to the YDA, the irrigation department has said: "Extreme caution and extraordinary measures should be taken while constructing the TRC to stop pollutants flowing into these canals (which have become vulnerable now)".


Dozens of water schemes feeding hundreds of villagers in Budgam and Pulwama districts will be affected in case of any pollution.


YDA chief executive officer (CEO) Ghalib Mohi-ud-Din Shah confirmed to the HT that the TRC is being shifted. "There was objection to the construction from the forest department. It is a time bound project and we did not want it to fall prey to inter-departmental hassles," said Shah.


 He said an environmental committee will look into the ecological apprehensions of the new project.

However, in contrast, tourism commissioner- secretary Atal Dulloo refuted any change in the master plan.

 "The TRC is not being shifted. We will take the forest department on board and the TRC will come up in line with the master plan," said Dulloo.

A trend is fast emerging in Kashmir where the politician-police-bureaucrat-businessman nexus is vandalising tourist destinations.

Kashmir's world famous tourist destinations of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg are facing the high court interventions in the wake of allegations of mass violations in their master plans.

The court has already banned new constructions in Pahalgam, in south, and Gulmarg in north Kashmir, after heavy build up of concrete structures and poor pollution control mechanism. Sonamarg in north-east of Srinagar is also witnessing massive constructions of hotels of late.
 

"Huge damage has been done to the environs at places like Gulmarg and Sonmarg in the name of infrastructural development. The rulers simply act as mute spectators.

"Either the government's writ does not run to control the damage or they are hand in glove with the violators," said opposition Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti.

She said environment was basic input of the growth and its preservation was a must at any cost. "Due to the lack of vision nobody is listening to the government. It was PDP's vision to develop rural and community based tourism so that there would be less impact on scenic beauty around," she added.