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Reorient Master Plan to balance livelihood tourism and ecological preservation around Dal Lake: HC

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Allows temporary, eco-friendly structures ‘not harmful to surroundings’ in buffer zones

Srinagar: Underlining the need for re-examining the use of buffer zones around Dal and other lakes, J&K High Court today directed that the Master Plan 2035 should be reoriented to evolve sustainable balance between livelihood tourism and ecological preservation.

Hearing a public interest petition on the miserable conditions of various water-bodies of Kashmir, Chief Justice A M Magray and Justice Puneet Gupta directed the Vice-Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Lakes Conservation and Management Authority (JKLCMA) to present himself before the court on November 16 to apprise it on the issue.

The court expressed its displeasure at the authorities for remaining un-responsive to its directions passed on September 08, 2022.

The court said “need for asking the Advocate General to take appropriate steps to get the area of buffer zone around the Dal Lake re-examined by the State authorities and placing of the same on record has arisen”.

Directions were passed at different times by the court that barred construction works within 200 meters of the periphery of Dal Lake.  Orders had to be relaxed at times to address the petitions filed for the renovation of the existing water sports centers and renovation of houses and hotels affected by the devastating 2014 floods.

While these issues were under consideration, Master Plan 2035 came to be notified. The Plan redefined the boundary area of the water-bodies and fixed statutory limits for the constructional activities to be carried out restraining to 100 mts, 50 mts and 20 mts depending upon the area of the water-body in question.

The court in order to balance the needs for sustainable development and economic prosperity of the area, sought clarifications and guidelines about the provisions of the Master Plan so as to ensure a stop on their abuse.

The court said structures of a temporary nature, such as tents, kiosks, floating jetties, or other such structures that can be erected without harming the surrounding areas may be allowed for utilization of such lands. This would only be apposite, keeping in mind that 20 years have elapsed since the restrictions were imposed, it observed.

It held that during the past 20 years, much advancements have been made in terms of materials available and in terms of techniques to establish eco-friendly structures that may enhance the development of the area rather than cause harm to it.

It referred to various forest areas like Ranthambore, Kanha National Park which provide tented accommodations and wooden log structures of a temporary nature for lodging and resort purposes.

Such measures, it said have not only brought a sustainable balance between livelihood tourism and ecological preservation to such areas but have also increased the prosperity of the inhabitants.

“The Master Plan 2035, we feel has failed to take advantage of these advancements,” observed the court.

The court directed “proposals for residential projects, alternate projects, such as camping resorts having tents similar to those permitted and employed in forest areas, hotels or dwelling units consisting of temporary nature, temporary jetties for water sport centres, and other eco-friendly tourism initiatives, which can be established and achieved through existing permanent buildings and or temporary structures that are not harmful to the surroundings should be read as a part of permissible uses in the buffer zones.”

It further directed “placing some of the houseboats on land adjacent to the Dal Lake may also reduce the burden on the lake while preserving livelihoods and traditional tourism experience without need for any permanent constructions or structures and shall also be considered a part of permissible uses in the buffer zones”.

The court also directed that any permissions granted for utilizations of such land shall ensure compliance with the norms relating to STPs, sewage disposal, landscaping and other norms.


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