Palampur, February 12
Illegal and unplanned construction in Bir Billing has become a matter of serious concern. Although the state government has formed the Special Area Development Authority (SADA) under the chairmanship of SDM Baijnath to regulate construction activities in Bir Billing, illegal construction continues.
Bir-Billing is a famous tourist destination in the state and one of the best paragliding locations in the world. The state tourism department has undertaken the construction of a multi-storey car park in a “no-parking zone” near the paraglider landing site in Chogan, in clear violation of the rules.
Tourism department ignores orders
- The government imposed a ban on all construction activities near the landing site to prevent paragliding accidents. However, the Department of Tourism chose to ignore the orders and the parking lot is under construction.
- Locals say the government had acquired land to develop a paragliding landing site. There was no proposal for the construction of a multi-storey car park.
This is despite the fact that the state government has imposed a complete ban on all construction activities near the landing site to prevent paraglider accidents and for the safe landing of paragliders. However, the tourism department conveniently chose to ignore state government orders.
I admit that the Department of Tourism had not taken the authorization of the SADA for the construction of the multi-storey car park, which was obligatory. —Salem Aazam, sdm baijnath & president of Sada
Residents of Bir Billing say the state government had acquired land to develop the paragliding landing site and there were no proposals for the construction of a multi-storey car park. They say if the parking lot was allowed to go up, it would be a major hazard to airmen.
When contacted, SDM Baijnath Salem Aazam, who is also the chairman of SADA, admitted that the tourism department had not obtained permission from SADA for the construction of a multi-storey car park, which was compulsory.
He said that when the matter came to his attention, he wrote to the Deputy Director of Tourism and the Kangra District Tourism Officer to stop the construction as it was “illegal”. However, no one bothered to carry out his orders. He said if multi-storey parking was allowed, it would pose a threat to flyers.
Deputy town planner Rohit Bhardwaj, who is also a member secretary of SADA, said neither his office nor SADA had approved a plan for the construction of a multi-storey car park at Chogan near the landing site. He said, in fact, that it was a zone without construction, he had refused permission three times. However, despite his refusal, the contractor started construction illegally. He also provided a copy of the denial letters written to the DTO.
Vinay Dhiman, District Tourism Officer, when interviewed, said according to records, the parking scheme under construction at Bir Billing did not have Special Area Development Authority (SADA) approval. He would look into the matter and the necessary measures would be taken to regularize the construction or limit the building to a single floor to avoid inconvenience to the airmen.
Unplanned construction at Bir Billing has reduced the open area in this resort, posing a threat to flyers. In recent years, the increase in the number of tourists has led to the proliferation of hotels, shops and restaurants in the area. As a result, the open area for the safe landing of flyers narrows.