Now, Master Plan violations spill over to roads; R&B sleeps

Now, Master Plan violations spill over to roads; R&B sleeps

From the south City highway to civil lines, ongoing constructions have been squeezing the road network when traffic mobility is already challenging.

With no check on rise in Master Plan violations in the City, even the roads are not being spared. Forget narrowing down of motorways due to concrete encroachments, the Roads and Building (R&B) department has even allowed concrete constructions on the middle of national highway.

Post September floods, since the day when authorities remained silent over the construction of a “worship place” on the middle of the TengPora highway, there has been no end to encroachments though High Court is hearing a case on Master Plan violations.

From the south City highway to civil lines, ongoing constructions have been squeezing the road network when traffic mobility is already challenging.

While general perception is that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation alone is responsible for the mess, the working of other concerned agencies has been equally shady.

Take the case of ParimPora-Athwajan highway. In the past four odd months the 17- kilometer stretch has witnessed hundred odd constructions, including multi-storied commercial complexes and shop lines. Sources said the enforcement squads took huge kickbacks of even Rs 50 lakhs to allow each illegal construction.

This area is looked after by the Srinagar Development Authority and SMC. “Though corruption rules the roost in the enforcement squads of these two agencies, the role of R&B has equally been altogether callous,” said a civil society activist adding that R&B could be party to kickbacks.

In Jawahar Nagar, Raj Bagh and Batamaloo localities, around three to four feet of road width, as per people, has been encroached upon at places. The same holds true for BrariNambal, Sonawar and Durganag localities, some of which fall under the BadamiBagh Cantonment Board and Lakes and Waterways Development Authority domains.

Sources said in lieu of kickbacks enforcement squads have been instrumental in “guidance” on how to undertake illegal constructions. “For big complexes, the concerned have allowed people to misuse residential permissions whereas for shop lines, the enforcement squads asked aspirants to erect tin sheds, which were subsequently converted into concrete from inside,” said an insider in the SDA.

At places like Radio Colony and NowgamChowk where shop lines were already in place in the ground floors, tin sheds were erected in the first floors followed by concrete work inside. “Upper floors have encroached more onto main roads,” admitted an official.

On the other hand even the City center is not immune to menace. “For construction of commercial complexes, the ribbon act has been brazenly violated even next to Budshah Bridge,” a civil society activist said.

But if SMC, SDA, LAWDA and BB Cantt have been silent, what about the role of R&B?

 “Roads and building department is the custodian of the road network and it’s their legal responsibility to ensure that their holdings are safe, but what has been happening for all these months hints of no-governance in the summer capital,” said a retired R&B Chief Engineer asking not be identified.

The R&B is well aware of the mess, officials said. “Chief Engineer R&B SK Razdan has already intimated the concerned enforcement agencies about the seriousness of the matter, but there has been no response,” they said.

Observers have been saying that political uncertainty has left the administration “least concerned towards City developments.” This is despite the fact that Governor NN Vohra, personally keen to see Srinagar prosper, has asked the administration to be vigilant.

Sources said though some time back the issue of rampant Master Plan violations was discussed at a high level meeting chaired by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir RohitKansal, results look awaited. (To be concluded)