HC seeks Govt response on constructions in Dal Lake, other water bodies

The only exception provided was for the purposes of grant of permission for repairs and renovations of the existing buildings falling within 200 meters from the centre of the foreshore road.
 J&K High Court, Srinagar
J&K High Court, SrinagarMubashir Khan/GK File

Srinagar: Amid contention that ban ordered by it on fresh constructions within 200 meters from the periphery of Dal Lake was not based on expert opinion and that latest Master Plan should hold the ground, the High Court of J&K and Ladakh Wednesday asked Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department (H&UDD) to file an affidavit in compliance to its latest directions by November 28.

A division bench of Chief Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul ordered this while noting that the response shall enable the court to pass directions on applications seeking permission for constructions on various water bodies in keeping with Master Plan 2035.

An application filed by Vice Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Lakes Conservation and Management Authority (JKLCMA) sought time to file compliance report in tune with the directions passed by the court on November 9 this year.

“While considering the prayer for grant of extension of time, we are faced with the resistance made by the counsel appearing for the applicants and writ petitioners who submit that the order passed by this court on July 19, 2002, was not based on an expert advice and the same was passed only on the basis of the submissions made by the Amicus and other counsels who had placed their views before the court,” the bench noted in the order.

On July 19, 2002, the court had directed that no construction work or even carrying of building material in and around the 200 meters from the centre of the foreshore road be allowed.

The only exception provided was for the purposes of grant of permission for repairs and renovations of the existing buildings falling within 200 meters from the centre of the foreshore road.

In their contention, the counsel for the applicants submitted, “Today the court has document in the shape of the Master Plan which is in tune with the scheme of the law notified by the Government after having associated and discussed the Master Plan with the people of all shades including traders, public representatives, common citizens, hotel associations.”

They submitted that the Master Plan had been notified only after all the concerned agencies including the Town Planning Organisation, Srinagar Development Authority, the experts dealing with the construction activities in the cities, the experts dealing with the sustainable and economically empowered growth of the city and the experts from other fields were associated which is evident from the preface of the Master Plan, 2035 notified on February 13, 2019.

“In the above background, we direct the Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development, Government of Jammu and Kashmir to file affidavit in compliance of the directions passed by this court on September 8, 2022, and November 9, 2022, read with the today’s order,” the court said.

While maintaining 200 meter embargo with regard to 200 meters regarding Dal Lake, the court on September 8 had accepted the implementation of the Master Plan with respect to other water bodies and had clarified that prohibition on construction contained in the order dated July 19, 2002, should stand modified to the extent that the prohibition shall apply in terms of the distances and buffer zones identified by the Master Plan itself.

Subsequently, the court had asked the Advocate General to take appropriate steps to get the area of the buffer zone around the Dal Lake “re-examined” by the J&K authorities and place the same on the court's record within six weeks.

The court had actually proposed development of buffer zones of non-concrete nature in Dal Lake and advocated erecting structures of temporary nature such as tents, kiosks, floating jettys, or other without “harming the surrounding areas”.

On the other hand, the court had said, the Master Plan 2035 envisages use of the buffer zones for amusement parks, aquariums and swimming pools.

“It will not only require construction of a permanent nature would have a drastic impact on the beauty of the waterfront and the lakes, surroundings,” the court had said. “Utilisation of the buffer zones for swimming pools, amusement parks, theme parks and the like, would also envisage high footfalls and consequent impact on the area in terms of waste disposal, littering, and pollution.”

On November 9, the court said: “After two months nothing has been placed on record before this court as directed.”

Subsequently, the court directed Vice Chairman JKLCMA to submit the compliance report by November 16.

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