Hotels

Illegal riverside hotels have intensified flash floods

PESHAWAR:

The unchecked illegal construction of hotels, resorts and restaurants on the banks of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has intensified the flash floods that hit most parts of the province on August 27, damaging dozens of hotels and other settlements.

From Mataltan to the Kalam Valleys, the Swat River flood destroyed around 30 illegally built hotels and damaged 50 others as rainfall broke a 30-year record in Malakand Division.

The illegal construction of hotels in the Swat River has not only obstructed the flow of flood waters but has also resulted in the overflowing of rivers damaging properties in Bahrain’s main bazaar.

Data shared by Commissioner Malakand’s office showed that around 30 hotels in Kalam, Bahrain, Madain, Landaki and Fizagat, mostly built on the Swat River bed, were destroyed and another 50 damaged.

Similarly, 700 hotels, motels, inns and restaurants were completely flooded in Kalam, Bahrain, Kabal, Charbagh, Manglawar, Khwazakhela, Matta, Madain and Mingora Bypass Road, inflicting colossal losses on the hotel sector of SWAT.

All Swat Hotels Association chairman Zahid Khan said the recent floods damaged or destroyed about 50 hotels and 150 restaurants, causing losses of about 25 billion rupees.

He said around 70 billion rupees of economic losses had been suffered by tourism-related businesses in Malakand division alone.

“Large-scale encroachment and illegal construction around the banks of the Swat River and other waterways have contributed to massive losses for the hospitality industry, trout farms, agriculture, orchards and livestock,” he said.

The situation is worrying and raises the question of why the departments concerned have remained silent on the illegal constructions.

“Residents, business people, farmers and hoteliers in Swat would continue to suffer from the risk of flooding if all these illegal structures were not removed and built a safe distance from the rivers,” Wajid Ali Khan said. , former Minister of the Environment.

He said the illegal construction of hotels and buildings near the banks of the Swat River, especially in Kalam, Bahrain and Madain, has spoiled the natural beauty of tourist areas besides affecting trout production.

“People in Swat relied mainly on the tourism sector for a living and the destruction of a large number of hotels deprived many people of their livelihoods,” Wajid said, adding that if the relevant laws had been fully complied with , the losses could be significantly reduced. .

Expressing concern over illegal constructions on the river banks, particularly in Swat, the National Assembly Sub-Committee on Water Resources has requested recommendations from different departments to formulate a new water and sanitation policy. environment for the country given the challenges of climate change. The sub-committee was formed after the devastation of recent flash floods and torrential rains along the Swat, Indus and Kunhar rivers.

The head of the committee, MP Riazul Haq, said the federal government was considering amending existing laws and enacting new legislation on water and environmental issues, including encroachment on rivers, to avoid any future loss due to climate change.

Commenting on the matter, Swat Deputy Commissioner Junaid Khan said Section 144 had been imposed banning all kinds of construction along the rivers following the recent calamity.

He said most of these flood-damaged hotels were built before the 2014 River Protection Act. “This law strictly prohibits the construction of hotels, homes and other projects within 200 feet of rivers.”

“From now on, no one would be allowed to construct any commercial or non-commercial buildings or carry out any other development work within 200 feet of Swat’s rivers and streams,” he said.

He also warned against strict measures against violators of this law under Article 188 of the PPC and said that an operation against illegal construction, encroachment as well as accumulation of debris along the Swat River has already been launched.

He also mentioned the establishment of a three-member committee led by Deputy Commissioner Bahrain to develop an inclusive strategy to identify encroachments and illegal constructions along the river.

Meanwhile, Bahrain’s Sub-Divisional Irrigation Officer has been given responsibility for identifying encroachments under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa River Protection (Amendment) Act 2014, to take the necessary measures.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st2022.