Taking serious note of the mushrooming growth of concrete jungle in and around the holy town of Katra, the base camp of pilgrimage to cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, in blatant contravention of various laws and its adverse impact on the environment and ecology, the State Government today imposed ban on constructions in violation of Master Plan and Civil Laws in this important town of the State.
Highly placed sources in the Civil Secretariat told EXCELSIOR that Government has imposed ban on all types of construction activities in the Katra town (including the area covered under Master Plan 2021 and within the limits of Katra Municipal Committee) in violation of Master Plan or any other Civic Law. An order in this regard was issued by the District Development Commissioner Reasi, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary.
The order is also in compliance with the interim directions issued by the State High Court in the matter of residents of Ward No.3 Katra Versus State of J&K and Others, sources said, adding “in the case the High Court recently directed that any construction activity to be undertaken by any owner of the immovable property has to synchronize with Civic Laws and the Master Plan and all the authorities including the Katra Development Authority and Municipal Authorities are duty bound to implement the Civic Laws and the Master Plan”.
“Acting on the interim directions of the High Court, the Government began exercise to assess the ground reality and it came to fore that Chief Executive Officer of Katra Development Authority, who is also the custodian to ensure implementation of Master Plan, was finding it difficult to deliver on ground due to inadequate staff, sources said, “it was also observed that things have been taken up in most casual manner in the most important town in the State from religious as well as economic point of view”.
Notwithstanding rampant and unchecked constructions, neither Katra Development Authority nor Municipal Committee Katra were in a position to explain if the Master Plan and Civic Laws are being followed in letter and spirit, sources said, adding it was also found that Master Plan was approved in November 2007 but even after lapse of more than five years no mechanism was put in place to ensure that land reserved for various civil amenities and infrastructure is saved for the intended use.
They disclosed that it was also found that at a number of places around the township forest area is also visibly encroached upon or attempts are being made to occupy the prime forest and Government land as reported, in some cases, by the Chief Horticulture Officer and Divisional Forest Officer.
Stating that with increasing property rates every available chunk of land is being targeted upon by various vested interests, sources said, “the ban on constructions in violation of Master Plan and Civic Laws has been imposed in order to prevent the important town from becoming concrete jungle and protect its environment and ecology”.
From today onwards constructions will be allowed in a case-by-case manner only after certification by a team of officers from KDA, Municipal Committee and Revenue Department and other authorities as provided under various laws to the effect that it is as per the provisions of the Master Plan and the 1976 Act wherever applicable, sources informed.
A committee comprising of Chief Executive Officer, Katra Development Authority, Town Planner, Tehsildar Reasi, Tehsildar Settlement Reasi, Executive Officer Municipal Committee Katra and Naib Tehsildar Katra to be constituted within a day or two will survey the entire area falling under the jurisdiction of Katra Municipal Committee and the area defined under the Master Plan in order to make inventory of all the constructions post November 11, 2007 when Master Plan came into force.
The team will also classify all the constructions into—having followed the provisions of Master Plan and the 2010 Act; having followed the Master Plan only (if it is covered under exceptions to 1976 Act); in violation of Master Plan; in violation of 1976 Act, where land has not been acquired. Moreover, the committee will also report if any public utility or any construction has been made by any Government/ Semi Government agency in violation of the rules/laws and the Master Plan and furnish detail about the officer heading the project/scheme/work along with present posting details.
“Every month, the CEO Katra Development Authority, Executive Officer Municipal Committee Katra and an officer of Revenue Department to be assigned responsibility separately and stationed at Katra, will submit an affidavit before the Deputy Commissioner Reasi to the effect that no construction has taken place in violation of the Master Plan or any Civic Law by any person as directed by the High Court, sources said, adding “moreover, the affidavit will indicate that any construction to be raised will be strictly in accordance with the permission granted by the Competent Authority and any shortcoming in the affidavit or violation on ground will be treated as contempt of court”.
Additional Superintendent of Police Katra based on monthly reporting of the concerned SHO will file an affidavit to the effect that no violation has been reported. The cases for according permission to various projects/works (housing, industrial, or public utilities or any other provided under Master Plan) will be placed before the Competent Authority /BOCA for approval only after a certificate to the non-violation of Master Plan and Civic Laws is submitted to the authority to ensure that directions of Court are followed in letter and spirit, sources further said.
In response to a question, sources said that Divisional Forest Officer Reasi will survey the entire forest area around the township, come up with a map of forest land indicating Khasra Numbers, demarcation details and a comprehensive map indicating the present status of forest land. He will bring on record any kind of encroachment in forest area and indicate period of such encroachment. The DFO has also been directed by the Government to file an affidavit every month that no forest land has been encroached upon and effective measures put in place to protect forest land and ecology of the area.
DFO Reasi has also been directed to file a status report on the revised Master Plan of Katra in consultation with CEO KDA and Town Planner indicating forest land proposed to be included in Master Plan for maintaining ecology. The DFO has also been entrusted the job of mapping all the forest areas along all roads leading to Katra township, along the highway starting from his jurisdiction upto Aghar Jitto, areas surrounding Katra towards Reasi.
“A compartment wise list indicating area and Khasra numbers, indicating boundary pillars and demarcation attested by Settlement Officer will be made available to the office of Additional Advocate General, the Deputy Commisisoner Reasi, Additional Deputy Commissioner Reasi, CEO Katra Development Authority, Executive Officer MC Katra”, sources said, adding the DFO will display boards along highway indicating forest land and displaying contact numbers of Block Forest Officer, Range Forest Officer, Divisional Forest Officer for information of general public to report any kind of attempt to encroach forest land.
This will also be done by Tehsildar Reasi at prominent places for both State land and forest land and the Additional Deputy Commissioner will monitor the same and submit a compliance report, sources said, adding “all the Government departments owing land in and around the township will map their land as per revenue records and copies of same will be made available in the office of KDA, MC and ADC Reasi every month”.