The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Thursday intervened to investigate and stop "illegal and unauthorized" construction of a palatial house near Kashmir’s biggest sanctuary Dachigam National Wildlife Park, which houses rare animals including the endangered Hangul.
SHRC judge justice Javeed Ahmad Kawoosa on Thursday issued notices to several government departments over alleged illegal constructions in Srinagar’s green belt of Srinagar, where the court has banned any new construction except for renovation.
"The SHRC took suo motto cognizance of the reports (regarding the construction) and allegations made by the genuine local residents whose houses have been damaged by the recent windstorm and not allowed to repair their house," said justice Kawoosa.
The SHRC observes that allowing some people to construct illegal structures and not allowing others to renovate their houses is tantamount to human rights violation.
The SHRC officials confirmed to the Hindustan Times that the four departments –- Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), Wildlife Department, Housing and Urban Development and Lakes And Water Ways Development Authority (LAWWDA) –- have been asked to file a factual report about the ongoing construction in the banned green belt.
Any construction in the court designated green belt poses threat to ecology of the Dachigam sanctuary and nearby shrinking Dal Lake. However, an official was recently witnessed ferrying construction material for the three-storey palatial house at the gates of the sanctuary.
"There are also allegations that the government is shutting its eyes to the unauthorized constructions by powerful people," said justice Kawoosa.
SMC commissioner Dr Ghulam Nabi Qasba said the corporation has no jurisdiction in the green belt. "Our only jurisdiction is sanitation. It’s LAWWDA that issues permission for any construction in the green belt,” said Qasba.
When contacted LAWWDA Vice-Chairman Irfan Yasin said, "We have not got any notice from the SHRC yet."
A senior official of the wildlife department, on the condition of anonymity, said an estate has come up outside the sanctuary over a period of time.
"It started with tin sheds then a fish pond came up and a guest house away from the road. Finally, a palatial house has shabbily come up, which goes against the landscape of the area. It will shoo away visitors from the sanctuary, which was turning into a hotspot," said the wildlife official.
Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also alleges that rampant illegal construction is taking place in the green belt.
"For the past 3-4 years scores of foreigners have settled here and hotels have been created illegally but the department has not taken any action against them," alleged PDP MLC Mohammad Ashraf Mir.
The name of influential bureaucrat Farooq Renzu, director of state information department, has surfaced in connection to the illegal construction of the farm house.
"I am remotely connected to the construction work. It’s my in-laws house and it’s there for the past 15 years. I am nowhere in the picture," Renzu told the HT.