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- Srinagar master plan violations
HC not satisfied with details given by municipal corporation
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, November 12
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court today observed its displeasure over the statement of movable and immovable properties of various officers and officials of the corporation furnished by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Commissioner. The High Court directed the officials of the enforcement wing of the SMC to give an undertaking by the next hearing that they would not move any of their properties till further orders.
It also expressed dissatisfaction over the stand taken by the government with regard to the violations noted in the Srinagar Master Plan and directed it to spell out its interim policy decision by the next hearing, fixed for November 21.
The directions were issued by a division bench comprising Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magray while hearing a public interest litigation seeking action against illegal constructions and structures falling within the limits of Srinagar city.
The court, in its orders passed on November 11, sought the personal appearance of SMC Commissioner GN Qasba before the court on November 12 along with details of movable and immovable properties of officers and officials of the corporation.
Though the SMC Commissioner was present in the court along with the details of movable and immovable properties of some of the corporation employees, the bench was not satisfied with the details furnished.
“The list you have provided is just like filling the gaps. It does not show the actual things on the ground. It does not reveal anything about the enforcement officials/officers of the corporation,” Justice Attar observed.
He further observed that all violations of the master plan, which had been noted over the years, had occurred because of the connivance of the SMC officials responsible for the enforcement.
Advocate General Mohammad Ishaq Qadri submitted that while taking a policy decision with regard to the master plan violations, the government was also taking all the ground realities into account.
He said the matter would be referred to experts and a new Srinagar Master Plan was being formulated. After the expert opinion and after the new master plan is formulated, a decision would be taken while taking all ground realities into account, he submitted.
On this, the court observed that it would be a time-consuming process and instead wanted the government to take a policy decision over the violations in the interim.
“Our heels are dug in the present. That is a matter related to the future. The court wants government’s policy on the matter,” Justice Attar observed.
After hearing all sides, the bench directed enforcement wing officials of the SMC, including Chief Khilafwarzi (enforcement) official, Khilafwarzi officer, ward officers and building inspectors, to give an undertaking by the next date of hearing that they would not move any of their properties till further orders.
The court also directed the government to give its stand with regard to the violations.
What the pil says
In the PIL titled, ‘Mujeeb Andrabi versus State’, the petitioners had prayed to the High Court to take a “strong note” of the constructions made without the permission of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and in violation of the master plan in Srinagar city. It also pressed on to pass directions to the authorities concerned for demolishing such structures in the interests of the public.
Taking a serious note of the violations of the Srinagar Master Plan, the High Court had directed the state government on October 31 to identify and take action against officials responsible for facilitating violations.CommentQuote0Flag
- Army may soon vacate prime land in Srinagar
State government to look for an alternative site for Army
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, November 13
The state government is hopeful that nearly 1,000 kanals of prime land at the Tatoo Ground here would be vacated by the Army before the Durbar offices reopen in May next year.
The state government has asked Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Shailendra Kumar to look for an alternative site for the Army.
In the past, the Army had been insisting on a site around Shariafabad on the outskirts of city in lieu of the Tatoo Ground. “But now the Army has agreed to shift from the Tatoo Ground even if the alternative land is provided elsewhere,” said Shailendra. “Hopefully, the Army will vacate the Tatoo Ground before the Durbar returns to Srinagar,” he added.
Government sources said the major hurdle in shifting of the camp from the city was that the Army was demanding land around Shariafabad, which also houses the headquarters of the Kilo Force, the Army’s counter-insurgency force.
The sources said the Army had agreed in 1988 to vacate the ground.
“After they had agreed, the Army wanted an alternative site at Shariafabad and Hanjik in Budgam district. The government provided alternative land to Army at Shariafabad and they took possession of it but did not vacate the Tatoo Ground,” a source said.
“The Army, however, has been saying that it is yet to get full possession of the Shariafabad land that was promised by the state,” the source said.
The state government plans to construct a recreational facility at the Tatoo Ground.
-In the past, the Army had been insisting on a site around Shariafabad in Budgam district in lieu of the 1,000 kanals at Tatoo Ground in Srinagar
-Now, the Army has agreed to shift from the Tatoo Ground even if the alternative land is provided elsewhere
-The state government plans to construct a recreational facility at the Tatoo GroundCommentQuote0Flag
- Over 2,000 units violate Jammu Master Plan
‘Political pressure’ stalls JMC's campaign against such buildings
Tribune News Service
Jammu, November 17
Alleged political pressure has stalled the efforts of the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) to rein in illegal constructions and commercialisation of residential areas in Jammu city.
Sources said though violators had approached the High Court that had stayed orders against a few properties but close proximity of businessman with political parties had forced the civic body to go slow against violations going on in the city.
As per the survey conducted within municipal limits, there are more than 2,000 residential buildings illegally converted into commercial units in violation of the Master Plan and Jammu and Kashmir Control of Building Operation Act, 1988.
Gandhi Nagar, Trikuta Nagar, Old City and Shastri Nagar areas are on top of the list where more than 700 violations have been detected. Similar cases could be found in other colonies developed by the Jammu Development Authority (JDA).
About three years ago, a major drive was started by the Municipal Corporation in the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar against the illegal conversion of residential buildings into commercial units, but not much progress was made.
However, Municipal Commissioner Kiran Wattal said there was no pressure on the civic body and several people had been booked for breaking the rules. “In the past one month, about 16 violations have been detected and action taken. The process takes time but we will take necessary steps”.
As per the law for converting any category of land or building into commercial unit, a proper permission has to be taken from the competent authority as defined in the revenue laws, but in the city, most of the people are violating the rules.
However, a senior municipal official said no major step could be initiated as political leaders were interfering in major decisions.
“Despite notices issued by the government, most of the people who are illegally using their residential properties for commercial purpose have not closed down their operations and continue to defy the directions of the administration,” he said.
Sources said an internal probe conducted by the corporation about a year ago had also revealed open violation of the building norms despite strict directions for not allowing conversion of residential premises into commercial one.CommentQuote0Flag
- Srinagar Master Plan being violated with impunity
Violators include city’s influential people, MLAs and former bureaucrats
Ishfaq Tantry/Majid Jahangir
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, November 17
The Municipal Corporation here might have sealed around 43 illegal structures, but the shopping malls, car plazas and other commercial establishments belonging to the big and mighty and built in violation of the provisions of the Srinagar Master Plan remain untouched.
Taking a serious note of the brazen violations of the master plan, the High Court had recently directed the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to seal the structures against which demolition orders have been issued.
Besides, the court had also sought a report from the government on the policy decision with regard to over 3,000 violations of the Srinagar Master Plan over the years.
However, the investigations reveal that many of these illegal structures, owned by the influential and powerful people, still remain intact.
The list includes Chief Minister’s close aides and his relatives, besides leaders of the opposition PDP and former bureaucrats.
The Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), in the past, had issued notices to these influential people for violating the guidelines, particularly along the Srinagar-Baramulla Bypass road, but to no avail.
The SDA had accused them of violating the Srinagar Master Plan that prohibits construction of any commercial complex along the stretch of the road.
The violators not only include private business houses, but it also features Indian Railways, Tourist Reception Centre and JK Police Public School.
According to SDA records, Indian Railways’ Nowgam station, the newly-built tourist reception centre at Nowgam and Police Public School at Bemina, which is run by the J&K Police, have come up in violation of the master plan.
The records also suggest that norms were flouted to establish Ansari Toyota, Shuhul Motors, KC Hyundai, Chevrolet Motors, Peaks Automobiles and Town Square.
Ansari Toyota, a multi-storied car show room is owned by senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and MLA Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, while the Shuhul Motors is owned by former National Conference corporator Bilal Ahmad Guroo.
KC Hyundai is owned by Mohammad Aslam Khan, father-in-law of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s sister.
Chevrolet Motors, on the other hand belongs to Ahsan Rather, son of a retired Development Commissioner.
The owner of Peaks Automobile situated on Nowgam Bypass, Baldev Singh, had originally sought permission for construction of a farmhouse at the site. However, he converted it into a two-storey automobile showroom-cum-sales and service centre, in violation of the SDA norms.
Town Square, owned by the wife of former Chief Secretary and MLC Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, runs without any designated parking space. As per the norms, it is mandatory for big shopping malls to have parking space.
-Whereas many structures in Srinagar have been erected without valid building permissions or in violation of the original permission given by the SDA, many other offenders have flouted the SMC rules while constructing shopping malls or other commercial structures
-In some instances, areas designated as residential complexes in the master plan have been converted into commercial places, like the posh Rajbagh, Karan Nagar, Barzulla and Jawar Nagar area of the city
High Court directions
-In a PIL, titled Mujeeb Andrabi versus State, the petitioner had appealed to the High Court to take note of the illegal constructions, built without the permission of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and in violation of the master plan in Srinagar city.
The petition also appealed to the court to direct the authorities concerned to demolish such structures in the interests of the public.
-Those arrested from Nanded are suspected to have been recruited by LeT’s Abu Jundal, who was deported from Saudi Arabia a few months agoThe court, meanwhile, has sought report from the government on the policy decision with regard to over 3,000 violations of the Srinagar Master Plan, which have been noted over the yearsCommentQuote0Flag
- Verify credentials of tenants or face legal action, residents told
Tribune News Service
Jammu, November 17
If you are planning to rent out your building, it may land you in trouble if you don’t visit the police station concerned to get the credentials of your tenants verified before renting accommodation as the police is launching a campaign on verification of tenants following reports of terror threats.
And those who contravene this process would be liable to face legal action in accordance with the provision of Section 188 of the RPC.
According to a circular issued by District Magistrate Ajit Kumar Sahu, all tehsildars and police officers of the Jammu district have been directed to start the process of verification of the tenants living under their jurisdiction. The orders would remain in effect for two months.
“Under Section 144, CrPC, no landlord, owner, person of any house or property, which falls under the jurisdiction of Jammu district, would let, sublet or rent out any accommodation without informing in writing the SHO concerned under whose jurisdiction the premises fall about the particulars of the tenants,” the circular stated.
The orders have into force with effect from November 11 and would remain in force for a period of 60 days unless withdrawn earlier.
“Any person who contravenes this order shall be liable to be punished in accordance with the provision of the Section 188 of the RPC. As the notice cannot be served individually on all concerned, the order is passed ex-parte,” the circular said.
Official sources, however, linked the issuance of the circular with the upcoming rally of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at MA Stadium on December 1.
“The district administration doesn’t want to take any chance for Modi’s rally following the serial blasts in Patna that too minutes before his rally. There are reports that terrorists, in the guise of tenants, may seek hideouts and cause explosion as the venue of the rally, MA Stadium had witnessed such incidents in the past,” sources said.CommentQuote0Flag
- Jhelum encroachers face FIRs
With irrigation department launching crackdown, encroachers cry for a rehab policy
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, November 18
The Department of Irrigation and Flood Control will act tough against the encroachers on the banks of Srinagar’s lifeline river, the Jhelum. As per a recent report furnished by the department, besides demolishing the illegal structures along the Jhelum, the department as per the report has already filed FIRs against the encroachers as per the J&K Water Resource Act.
The report has also admitted that the bed level of the river at various stretches has lowered due to sand dredging from the river by the encroachers.
However, the department admits that the real problem being faced due to vanishing of this major water body has been its decreasing tendency to accommodate discharge due to precipitation.
For the encroachers, however, the problem lies with the rehabilitation, especially those who have built houses along the Jhelum tributaries and flood channels particularly those in Rakh-i- Aarat.
“We have been living alongside the riverbanks for many years now. Our hutments are there since many years and we derive our living from fishing in the Jhelum. By vandalising our homes, we will be deprived of our livelihoods as well as houses. While the state government seems to be serious about rehabilitating the Dal dwellers who will be asked to vacate, for Jhelum dwellers no such policy exists,” said Ghulam Hassan, a resident alongside the Jhelum in Haba Kadal area of downtown Srinagar.
The report says that the State Irrigation and Flood Control Department has also launched a Flood Management Programme to check the imminent threat of floods.
In this regard, the state department has also submitted a comprehensive integrated Flood Management Project of the Jhelum costing Rs 2,200 crore to the Union Ministry of Water Resources, which is awaiting nod from the Central Government.
However, the Central Government has approved an immediate intervention flood project at an estimated cost of Rs 98 crore to improve the flood spills and channels along tributaries.
“The project ‘Flood Threat’ of the river which involves urgent work undertaken to restore its glory is under execution and completed to the extent of 75 per cent. The reservations raised by the Central Government regarding the comprehensive Integrated Flood Management Project would be replied by the state department so that a mega project is approved by the state government, to launch the much needed flood management on the Jhelum river and its tributaries,” the report said.
-The state department has submitted a comprehensive integrated Flood Management Project of the Jhelum costing Rs 2,200 crore to the Union Ministry of Water Resources, which is awaiting nod from the Central Government.
-The Cente has approved an immediate intervention flood project at an estimated cost of Rs 98 crore to improve the flood spills and channels along tributaries.CommentQuote0Flag
- Urban sprawl eats up agricultural land in Kashmir valley
Govt yet to put a brake on encroachments
Srinagar, November 18
With agricultural land falling prey to unchecked urbanisation and rampant commercialisation, the state government is helpless about putting a brake on the growing trend of land conversions. In 2011, the state government had established a committee, led by Minister for Housing, Horticulture, and Culture, to review the bill that would put a ban on the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, but till now, the committee is without any result.
According to the J&K Economic Survey report 2012-2013, 70 per cent of the population in J&K is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
The provisions of the J&K Land Revenue Act 1996 (1939 AD) prohibit the conversion of paddy or vegetable lands and floating fields into any other use.
To check violations, officials of the Revenue Department said they had been taking the required action. “If there is any violation, we are taking a necessary action and if anyone comes to us with a complaint, we do act,” said Farooq Ahmad Shah, Deputy Commissioner, Revenue Department, Srinagar.
While the state government has enough laws to counter the phenomenon, the unregulated and unplanned swallowing of agricultural land for commercial purposes continues unabated. In addition to the Revenue Department, various implementing and monitoring agencies, including the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), have failed to curb the illegal constructions taking place on the agricultural land.
In the outskirts of Srinagar city — once a boundless area of marshy land — a sprawling stretch of posh residential colonies, housing valley’s prominent and influential functionaries, have cropped up in recent years. Hyderpora, Bemina, Pirbagh, Sanatnagar, Rawalpora, Narbal, Zainakoot are some examples of the massive conversion scenario, the Valley has witnessed since early 2000s.
Mushtaq Ahmed, Director, Agriculture Department, said there were specific departments to check the land conversion. “The Agriculture Department is not the authority for it, we are only meant for agricultural production. We can only inform other departments,” he said.
The J&K economy has undergone a precarious shift from a steady agrarian economy in mid-decades of the 20th century to a consumerist service-based economy.
Still to act
-The state government has enough laws to counter the phenomenon, but the unregulated and unplanned swallowing of agricultural land for commercial purposes continues unabated.
-In addition to the Revenue Department, various implementing and monitoring agencies, including the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and the Srinagar Development Authority, have failed to curb the illegal constructions taking place on agricultural land.CommentQuote0Flag
- Govt’s orders to seal illegal buildings mere eyewash, alleges NGO
Srinagar, November 19
As the government has already identified 2,500 illegal structures to be sealed in various parts of the Valley, a non-government organization (NGO) working against the illegal land conversions alleges that the orders to identify illegal buildings were just an eyewash as some shopping malls are still illegally functioing in the city.
Hilal Ahmad War, head of the NGO, Human Watch International (HWI), said despite the crackdown on illegal shops operating in the city, many commercial complexes were still illegally functioning in the city. The government had sealed only a few of the commercial units in a drive.
“You see residential areas are being made commercial hubs and even the court orders are not being properly implemented. The drive was just an eyewash as there are many illegal buildings still functioning in the city,” War said
In October, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) sealed 19 out of 39 identified illegal structures in Srinagar’s Jawahar Nagar and Karanagar only.
The Municipal Commissioner declined to comment on the number of structures have been sealed since the first SMC drive in October. “I cannot answer your question,” said SMC Commissioner GN Qasba.
The HWI has identified many colonies that were being constructed on the agricultural land in Pampore, Sonamarg and Narbal.
War said the NGO helped the government to stop their construction. These illegal constructions had an impact on the Master Plan of the city. “The government should come up with a good policy to systematically accommodate the increasing population,” he said. War has also filed a PIL to ascertain the violations of land laws in the Valley.CommentQuote0Flag
- High Court stays construction of house by NC minister Ramzan
Petitioner accuses minister of encroaching on green strip
Srinagar, November 19
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court, acting on a petition, has stayed the construction of a two-storeyed structure by National Conference leader and Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan and his kin in a posh residential enclave in Srinagar.
These orders were issued by a single bench of Justice Bansi Lal Bhat in a petition by one Dr GN Yatoo, wherein it has been alleged that the minister has violated the Srinagar Master Plan norms and guidelines in the posh Friends Colony. Yatoo is also a resident of the same colony.
The two-storeyed house is being constructed by the minister in the posh colony in Humhama on the airport road in Srinagar.
In the petition by Yatoo, it has been alleged that the minister has encroached upon a public lane and a green strip reserved for beautification of the colony near the plot allotted to him and his kin in the residential colony.
“He is raising the construction in clear violation of the sanctioned master plan on the plots after grabbing the public lane and green strip reserved for beautification of the colony which is detrimental to the rights and interests of the inhabitants of the colony, including the petitioner,” the high court observed in its orders passed on Monday, while issuing notices to the minister and 13 other official respondents.
The court further directed for “maintaining status quo” on the spot “as it exists” till the next date before the bench.
In the petition, it has been alleged that Choudhary Ramzan has been able to secure permission for raising the two-storeyed structure on two plots after conniving with officials, including those from the Srinagar Municipal Corporation.
Yatoo in his petition has urged the high court to quash the building permission orders issued by the chairman of the Building Operations and Control Authority (BOCA) on August 27, 2013, by virtue of which Ramzan and his kin were allowed to raise the structure.
Apart from requesting the high court to give directions to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation to seal/demolish the said construction on the site, Yatoo in his petition has also sought directions for initiating action against the alleged erring corporation officials.CommentQuote0Flag
- Attach properties of top municipal official: HC
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, November 21
Observing that the violations of the Srinagar Master Plan have taken place with the connivance of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), the J&K High Court today directed the authorities concerned to attach the properties of the Chief Enforcement Officer of the corporation.
It has also directed the Joint Commissioner of the Enforcement Wing of the SMC to furnish an affidavit and an undertaking about his property details within five days. It asked persons affected by the SMC sealing drive to prefer appeals before the tribunal.
The orders were issued today by a High Court bench comprising Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magray while hearing a public interest litigation, seeking action against illegal constructions and structures falling within the Srinagar city limits.
On November 12, the High Court had directed officials of the Enforcement Wing, including the Joint Commissioner and the Chief Enforcement Officer, to furnish property details registered in their names and in the names of their respective spouses and children by November 21.
In compliance with the directions, the SMC counsel today submitted the affidavits and undertakings of 95 officials of the SMC, including the Chief Enforcement Officer, Hakim Ajaz Ali. But the property details of the SMC Joint Commissioner were not submitted. After perusal of the affidavits and the undertakings mentioning the property details of the SMC officials, the court took a note of the fact that the Chief Enforcement Officer had not given the revenue records of some of his properties.
This prompted the Bench to direct the Deputy Commissioner (DC) concerned to take charge of Hakim Ajz Ali’s properties as mentioned in the affidavit. The bench further directed the DC concerned to report compliance of the court orders to the registrar judicial of the High Court after handing over the custody of the attached properties to the tehsildar concerned.
The court told the SMC to issue notices in the cases where notices have not been issues so as to enable the affected parties to approach the tribunal or other statutory bodies with appeals within seven days.
It directed the tribunal to take the appeals and the cases on a day-to-day basis and decide the matters preferably within 10 days keeping in view the urgency of the matter.
The SMC has so for sealed 42 structures in the Srinagar city for violating the master plan and other norms. Besides, the government has informed the court that over the years, over 3,000 violations of the Srinagar Master Plan have been reported.
The matter has been posted for further consideration on November 28.
Court raps Bar president
During the course of hearing of a PIL on Thursday, the High Court took exceptions to certain submissions by Bar president Mian Qayoom. He appeared before the bench praying for de-sealing of a structure belonging to one of his clients. During the arguments, Qayoom submitted that the structures which were under scrutiny for violating certain norms haven’t come overnight. “These structures have come up over the last 15 years in daytime, not overnight. Everybody has seen these structures come up, even the judges of the High Court,” Qayoom said. However, Justice Muzaffar Attar observed that being a senior lawyer, he (Qayoom) should be serious in his submissions. “Please be serious, you are making submissions before the court of law. We (the judges) have not seen it (structures coming up). You must have seen it,” Justice Attar observed while taking exception to Qayoom’s submissions. Qayoom pleaded that the High Court should legalise the violations on the pattern of Delhi, where, he said, over 200 illegal colonies had been regularised. “The court is not going to legalise any illegal act,” Justice Muzaffar Attar said.CommentQuote0Flag
- HC tells state to submit draft rules for approval
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, November 24
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed the authorities concerned to submit drafted minor mineral and quarrying rules for approval so as to have a comprehensive government policy on quarrying operations in the state.
It has also directed the Commissioner Secretary, Industry and Commerce, and the department to file a report indicating as to whether the extraction of stones from proprietary or barren lands was permitted.
The directions were passed by a division bench of the High Court comprising Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar on Thursday in a public interest litigation (PIL) by Sofi Arif, seeking a ban on illegal quarrying in the forests.
Quarrying operations in forest areas of the state have already been banned by the High Court.
In April this year, the court had directed all Deputy Commissioners to ensure strict implementation of its orders on illegal quarrying in the forests across the state and had made it clear that any laxity to implement its directions in letter and spirit would be viewed seriously.
“The Commissioner Secretary, Industries and Commerce, in his affidavit, has stated that quarrying has not been stopped on private, barren land except in some cases where slope stability was involved and landslides were detrimental to the nearby population or roads,” the bench observed in its orders made available yesterday.
The Commissioner Secretary, the court said, had also submitted in his affidavit that at present, the extraction of stones from private/barren lands was being permitted, which met the demands of construction works and provided jobs to quarry owners, labourers and transporters.
The Commissioner had also suggested that the Forest Department be asked to identify any barren area within the forest lands for rehabilitating the quarrying owners effected by closing down of their quarrying operation in the forest areas. However, the court took exception to the suggestion by the Commissioner/Secretary, saying, “any positive response by the Forest Department will run contrary to the judgment of the Apex court”, which has banned quarrying operations in forest areas.
“Some parameters have to be adopted in compliance with the judgment of the Apex Court, titled Deepak Kumar versus State of Haryana… the relevant rules for quarrying and other minor mineral activities have been revised and updated after having concurrence from forest, irrigation, flood control, revenue and fisheries departments. The General Administrative Department has submitted (these) draft rules to the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for vetting,” the bench observed in its orders while quoting from the status report of the Commissioner/Secretary, adding that “the rules shall be thereafter submitted for approval so as to have a government policy on all types of land where such activities can continue.”
To check illegal quarrying in the forest areas, the state government has drafted minor mineral rules that have been submitted to the Law Department after receiving objections from all departments concerned. “The Commissioner Secretary, Industries and Commerce Department, shall file latest status report, wherein it shall be clearly indicated as to whether the extraction of stones is permitted from private, proprietary/barren lands or otherwise. In addition, latest status of the finalisation of the rules, if any, formulated by the government, shall also be filed,” the HC directed in its orders.CommentQuote0Flag
- Centre tells J&K Govt to speed up installation of water meters
Threatens to stop funds for improving water distribution network in Jammu, Srinagar cities
Tribune News Service
Jammu, November 26
The Central Government has asked the Jammu and Kashmir Government to speed up the installation of water meters on domestic and commercial connections or it will stop the crucial funds for improving water distribution network in the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar.
Jammu and Kashmir is waiting for money under Centrally sponsored schemes of the Urban Infrastructure Development in Small and Medium Towns (UIDSMT) and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Sources said the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department was now seeking approval from the government to outsource the installation of water meters to complete the project on the fast-track basis.
As per the government data, there are 1,21,814 water connections in the city, of which 78,970 are in the City Division-I and 42,844 in the City Division-II. There are 13,549 commercial connections with 12,092 in the City Division-I and 1457 in the City Division-II, which have been identified for the first phase.
Though the project was started in 2010 and was expected to be completed within a year, but opposition from various sections of the population and commercial establishments delayed its completion.
So far only 2,000 meters have been installed in commercial establishments like hotels, lodges, restaurants, educational institutions, while no residential colony has been covered.
As per the data, the department was presently providing nearly 42 MGL of water per day to the population of over 15 lakh in Jammu city. The net requirement of potable water for this population is 45 MGL per day. So, 3 MGL of water shortage is still there.
While confirming the directive of the Centre, Commissioner Secretary, (PHE), Pawan Kotwal said the Union Government had passed directions to lower the non-revenue water expenditure and check wastage. “The Centre has strongly termed the wastage of water non-acceptable and to asked to ensure that drinking water is not misused. We hope to complete the project in the coming months. Many new schemes are being considered to check the wastage of water,” Pawan Kotwal said.
In most parts of the urban areas of the state, people are facing shortage of water during the summer and most parts of winter, with some localities getting the supply after two to three days. The main reason is the wastage of water by domestic and commercial users.
Despite having thousands of glacier-fed rivers and streams, in recent years Jammu and Kashmir had faced the affect of global warming, mainly due to over-exploitation of the water bodies.
-There are 1,21,814 water connections in the city, of which 78,970 are in the City Division-I and 42,844 in the City Division-II
-There are 13,549 commercial connections — 12,092 in the City Division-I and 1,457 in the City Division-II — which have been identified for the first phase
-So far only 2,000 meters have been installed in commercial establishments like hotels, lodges, restaurants, educational institutions, while no residential colony has been coveredCommentQuote0Flag
- By 2031, Purmandal-Akhnoor area may come within city municipal limits
Tribune News Service
Jammu, November 29
"Going by the rapid influx of people into Jammu and Kashmir, by 2031 area starting from Purmandal in Samba district till Akhnoor subdivision would be brought under the limits of the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC)," Jammu Development Authority (JDA) officials said.
The officials said keeping in view the geographical constraints, expansion had to be done in a horizontal way, which means northern and southern expansion, incorporating villages from Akhnoor, Nagrota towards Vijaypur along the national highway into the MC limits and the total area of city expanding to 530 sq km from the present 117 sq km.
At the moment the municipal limits end at Kunjwani chowk, Bantalab, Tomal Borhi and Munshi Chak, while the old city has no scope for further expansion.
Though the new Master Plan is being prepared to deal with the challenge, but it could mean investment of crores of rupees to provide civic amenities to such an expanding city, which is beyond the realms of the state government and need massive investment by the private sector.
“Our worry is how the state would manage funds and work commitment when even small infrastructure development projects are being delayed for years. A large chunk of agriculture land will be gobbled by the expanding population. Till now Purmendal and major part of Akhnoor are considered a rural area,” said a senior official from the Jammu Development Authority (JDA).
Till 2000, the city was having an area of just 32 sq km and in 2003 the government approved the city limits to 117 sq km. The old city, earlier comprising of 23 wards, was divided into 48 wards and 23 new wards were added to it thus raising the total number of wards to 71, which are being managed by the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC). Major projects are being looked after by the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) and Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA).
Minister for Urban Development Nawang Rigzin Jora said the government had already announced the public-private partnership (PPP) mode for major projects to involve the private sector in them. “In the new Master Plan under formulation, everything will be taken care of. There is need to keep a balance between environment, development, modern transport, sanitation and drinking water need.”
The first Master Plan was prepared for the period 1974-1994. Thereafter, Master Plan-2021 was notified in 2004 for planned development for 20 years up to 2021, which is presently operational.CommentQuote0Flag
- NH expansion takes toll on health, ecology
Tribune News Service
Jammu, December 19
The expansion of the 400-km Pathankot-Jammu-Srinagar national highway would provide a jerk-free travel to Kashmir, but it has cost heavily upon the local ecology as the crushers and mixers which churn out material for roads generate tonnes of dust daily.
Though the state government had taken action against 688 privately owned stone crushers, no action was taken against some of the big units established by the National Highways Authority of India and AFCONS, which is working on the four-laning of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
According to the data collected by the State Pollution Control Board, suspended particulate matter and respiratory suspended particulate matter have witnessed a steep rise in the past two decades, crossing the limits suggested as safe by health experts.
Officials said the dust generated as a result of site clearing and grading, heavy machinery travelling over exposed soils, truck traffic and the production of construction materials at borrow pits and off-site quarries.
Smog and high level of dust in air has now become a major environment and health challenge.
Airborne suspended particulate matter is an important marker of air quality.
The particulate matter includes organic and inorganic matter, nitrogen and sulphur compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals.
Chairman of the Pollution Control Board (PCB) Arun Tikku said this was a complex issue and the companies had been told to minimise air pollution and damage to the green cover.
“When it comes to big Centrally sponsored projects, there are some guidelines which the construction companies have to follow, which include establishing their units outside the population centres. For these projects, there is always a possibility of some environment issue,” the PCB chairman said.
Construction activities have the potential to generate a substantial amount of air pollution which is detrimental to plant growth and the health of local inhabitants. Environmentalists say that there is a provision of sprinkling water near the construction sites so that dust settles down but the contractors don’t do it just to make money.
“In recent years, suspended particles in air have increased due to the vehicular traffic and the dust generated by the construction activity and big crushers established outside Jammu near the forests. It has become a major cause for respiratory diseases and burning eye symptoms among the labourers and commuters,” said Bushan Parimoo, an environmentalist, who runs a NGO.CommentQuote0Flag
- Power theft: 26,077 illegal connections active in Jammu
Last year, government found 34,753 defaulters across the state
Jammu, December 19
Illegal power connections continue to be a major headache for the Power Development Department (PDD) as during this year, 26,077 unregistered connections have been identified by the field staff in Jammu and other towns of the region.
After imposing fine on defaulters, they have been regularised, but the figures clearly show the extent of power theft going on in state particularly in Jammu and Srinagar.
Notices under Section 50 of J&K Electricity Act were issued recently to consumers having arrears above Rs 10 lakh with warning to either pay the bills or face disconnection.
A survey revealed that in some areas inhabited by businessmen and politicians, the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses have increased to 80%, with most of them not paying regular tariffs amounting to lakhs of rupees, leading to shortcoming in revenue targets, forcing government to divert money from developmental funds to purchase power from Northern grid.
In the past few years, Jammu and Kashmir has spent crores in improving the power sector in state, but to some extent these measures have failed to curb losses, because government departments, ministers, MLAs are themselves major defaulters.
Last year, the government had found 34,753 illegal connections across the state.
“Even in metered areas, we found that consumers are bypassing the meters and running their electronic gadgets. At some places there is active support of PDD staff as well, who are helping people,” said a senior officer requesting anonymity. Since 2004, when the state started a massive project to streamline the power sector in J&K, several steps have been taken to curb power loss, but it has failed to bear fruits. “This is another experiment being done by the department, but its outcome depends on the sincerity of officials involved because so far all measures taken in this direction have failed to produce optimum results,” an official source said.
Cracking the whip
-After imposing fine on defaulters, they were regularised, but figures points out the extent of power theft in the state, particularly in Jammu and Srinagar
-Notices were also issued recently to consumers with arrears above Rs 10 lakh. They were warned to either pay up or face disconnection
-Since 2004, when a massive project to streamline the power sector in J&K was started, steps were taken to curb power loss, but it has failed to bear fruitCommentQuote0Flag