Beyond the News - FACT Analysis

Exclusive hotel zone for Amritsar

Harjap Singh Aujla, Senior Advisor to The Fact News
For the past couple of years, a lot of hotels and guest houses have been opening in Amritsar. Some put their number at more than 800 hotels, some others estimate their real number close to 1,500. Nearly half of them are considered un-authorized. Most of them are clustered in the narrow streets of the walled city around the Golden Temple and being cheap are doing good business, even in bad times like the Covid-19 pandemic. This haphazard growth of Amritsar’s hospitality industry is giving a fatal blow to the fragile heritage structures of this city. The Amritsar Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHARA) is vehemently opposed to mushrooming of these make-shift hotels, so are the lovers of heritage and several NGOs. Lahore has saved itself by constituting a government-appointed walled city heritage authority. It is about time for Amritsar to get one too with requisite powers to enforce the regulations. Most of the well-wishers of Amritsar are proposing to the Punjab Government to earmark an exclusive 1,000-acre zone, abutting the G.T. Road for the new hotel district in the city. This site should be located on the Amritsar – New Delhi Grand Trunk Road in between Jandiala and Amritsar. The Golden Temple will be only half an hour away from the new location. In order to make really good world-class hotels, some of us in the Amritsar Vikas Manch (an NGO) are proposing 5 to 6 acres for each five star hotel, 3 to 4 acres for each 4 star hotel and 1 to 2 acres for each 3 star hotel. Un-starred hotels and restaurants can be built on smaller parcels of land measuring not less than 1 acre of area. There should be multi-storeyed car parking with each hotel and restaurant. The exterior of the high end hotels must conform to the traditional Indian or European architectural styles. Based on the designs conforming to the bearing capacity of the soil and the requirements of earthquake proofing, the height control restrictions should be done away with, as it is done in the advanced countries. The hotel owners should be strictly mandated to maintain and properly landscape their properties. In the absence of such stringencies, this city will keep suffering from urban blight. The remaining areas out of the 1,000 acres situated away from the highway should be tree-lined and planned like the urban estates of Chandigarh, New Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula. Considering the fact that Amritsar too has a fully functioning international airport, reputed educational institutions, and a first grade railway station, this city can also be as attractive as the metropolitan Chandigarh area. At present some of the residents of the highly polluted national capital region are making a beeline to the State Capital Region Chandigarh, comprising of New Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali, in addition to Chandigarh itself. We should take necessary steps to stop this area from becoming another heat island like Delhi. Let us develop alternative decent cities and modify the expansion of older cities in Punjab too for comfortable urban dwelling experience. What Lahore can do to flourish even being a border city in Pakistan, Amritsar can do in India too. At one time Lahore was the city of six hundred and fifty thousand and Amritsar had a population of half a million, but after 1947 Lahore has become a mega-city of twelve million and Amritsar is the home to less than two million people.    (A writer is a distinguished Engineer with over 4 decades of illustrious experience with the Indian and US Governments)