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HC raps authorities for failing to preserve Sonamarg

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Srinagar: The government on Monday pleaded for more time to file its response on the development works in Sonamarg hill station, although the High Court a year and a quarter ago had asked for the response and called for winding up the concerned development authority.

The hill station is facing an existential dread because of encroachments, alarmingly increased human footfall, and disorganized constructions. It has lost 286 kanals of its space to “a mafia of politicians, bureaucrats, police officers and big businesses” along the River Sindh meandering through its mountainous landscape.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench headed by Justice Pankaj Mithal had previously told the Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA) “if authorities like you are not in a position to take any development work, the court will recommend the government for winding up of such authorities as there is no use to keep the white elephants only for the purposes of siphoning of public money.”

The court also asked the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) SDA to come out with a “whitepaper” on the development works so far done and the action plan drawn for future development.

The officer was last year asked to file his personal affidavit within three months.

Interestingly, as the matter came up for hearing on Monday, the state lawyer Illyas Nazir Laway sought time to file an affidavit to bring on record the major works claimed undertaken by the SDA and the Master Plan of the hill station.

The division bench of Chief Justice Mithal and Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal asked the attorney to get a vision plan prepared for Sonamarg as a whole and place it on record along with the affidavit.

The bench directed the CEO SDA to explore the possibility of using wooden fence, hedges and plantation of trees, which are all environment-friendly to demarcate the various meadows and the boundaries of the various properties instead of using steel and iron barricades/fencing.

Commissioner Secretary to Government, Revenue Department had earlier filed a compliance report, stating that the demarcation work on Sindh Nallah (river) in collaboration with the Irrigation and Flood Control Department had been completed.

His report exposed that 258 kanals and 12.75 marlas of land of the Sindh river was under encroachment and in possession of unauthorized occupants.

The court disapproved of the manner in which the demarcation of Sindh river had been done saying “it has not been disclosed in the report whether any boundary pillars have been erected or not.”

The court also remarked that the Deputy Commissioner, Ganderbal was directed to file a response within a period of three weeks explaining certain things specified in an order passed in October 2021.

“Till date no such response has been filed,” it said.

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