Bir Billing, a famous tourist destination in the foothills of the Himalayas, is also one of the top-10 paragliding sites of the world, but large scale illegal and unplanned constructions are posing a grave threat to this famous hill resort.
In the absence of any check, unplanned commercial activities have reduced the open space in this picturesque hill resort, posing a serious threat to the security of flyers.
A large number of buildings have come up in gross violation of rules without the prior approval of the Special Area Development Authority (SADA), which has specifically been constituted for planned growth at this tourist destination.
The number of tourists has increased in the area in the past few years because of adventure sports activities being undertaken here. The place witnesses hundreds of tourists every day. On an average, around 20,000 tandem flights are undertaken every month. Tandem flight involves a ride along with a paragliding pilot. Besides, over 10,000 solo flights are taken every month. The hill station has become the first choice for domestic and foreign tourists.
In the past few years, the sudden increase in the number of tourists has triggered large scale construction of hotels, shops and restaurants in the area. Now, hardly any open area is left for flyers to take off or land safely. The construction near the landing site has become a serious issue. Most of the flyers while talking to The Tribune said if timely action was not taken, no place would be left for landing, as the flyers would not take any risk to land in congested areas.
Dozens of new hotels, guest houses and restaurants have come up from Bir to Chogan in an unplanned manner. It seems no authority exists here to regulate the construction activities. Though SADA has appointed a supervisor to check illegal construction in the area, there is still no let-up in illegal constructions. In SADA, the T&C rules are applicable and new buildings cannot be constructed unless its site plan area is approved by SADA.
Earlier, Baijnath SDM had asked a defaulter to pay Rs 76,000 as fine and also ordered the demolition of the building. However, the affected party filed an appeal in the High Court. Interestingly, the High Court did not grant stay and the building is yet to be demolished. Likewise, there is a long list of defaulters against whom SADA has failed to initiate action.
No provision for disposal, treatment of garbage
Besides, there is no provision for the disposal and treatment of garbage in Bir Billing. Heaps of garbage emitting foul smell can be seen all over. The situation is worse near the Tibetan colony, where garbage has not been removed for the past many months.
SADA has imposed various taxes such as green tax, fee from pilots etc., but there is no facility worth the name for tourists. In Billing, there is not even a single toilet and similar is the situation at Bir, Chogan and Tibetan colony.
Over Rs 3 crore were spent during the Paragliding World Cup in 2017, but no one knows where the money was utilised and whom the payments were made. The amount was given to a private body by the state government for holding the event.
SDM Baijnath Romeshwar Chand, who is also the chairman of the Special Area Development Authority (SADA), said many cases of illegal constructions have come to his notice. “Time has been given to violators. If they will not act voluntarily, then the administration will raze these structures and the cost would be recovered from the building owners,” he said.
It may be recalled that following serious observations made by the apex court while hearing the cases pertaining to illegal construction in Kasauli and subsequent murder of Assistant Town Planner, the authorities had started a major crackdown against illegal construction in Billing as well.
Notices were served to a number of defaulters, but later no action was taken. As a result, illegal construction are on the rise.
"Many cases of illegal constructions have come to my notice. Time has been given to violators. If they will not act voluntarily, then the administration will raze these structures and the cost will be recovered from the building owners." Romeshwar Chand, SDM Baijnath, also chairman, SADA