JK Tourism Will Depend on Quality of Environment: Mufti

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Issues directions for strict adherence to eco norms; underground ducting of power, water, telecom lines in well-known resorts

SRINAGAR: Describing the natural beauty of Kashmir as God’s greatest gift, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Wednesday emphasized that promotion of tourism will always remain subservient to the conservation of our priceless environment.

According to a statement, he said resorts will be developed in a planned way and construction for creating basic facilities for visitors will be regulated by strictly abiding to proper procedural norms, as laid down in the Master Plans.

The Chief Minister said this while taking separate reviews of Sonamarg, Wullar-Manasbal & Gulmarg Development Authorities today.

Asking private stakeholders in tourism sector to plant trees to protect environment as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Mufti Sayeed impressed upon Commissioner / Secretary, Tourism, to provide mandatory guidelines to hoteliers and restaurateurs for landscaping and facade control of their assets to improve the ambience of tourist resorts.

The Chief Minister said J&K has to be careful as at several popular destinations around the world, tourism has plummeted because of environmental issues, given the fact that visitors globally have become conscious of ecological conservation.

Calling upon promotion of well-known tourist destinations as eco-resorts, Mufti Sayeed also directed the Tourism Department to conceive a plan for underground ducting of power, water and telecommunication facilities so that footfall of high-spending visitors is increased.

He said the Government will reserve funds and, if need be, explore financing the plan under Ministry of Tourism’s scheme of ‘Destination and Circuit Development’.

Stressing upon making tourism infrastructure revenue generating assets, the Chief Minister said footprint of high-end tourists will only improve if we take steps for creating benchmark facilities at all major destinations. “We should promote tourism by creating opportunities of growth and employment in the sector,” he said, while asserting the need for undertaking a massive publicity drive to promote week-end and weekday packages.

While interacting with private stakeholders, the Chief Minister also reiterated his earlier directions for constituting Citizen Committees headed by Chief Executive Officers that will take on board all stakeholders, including local representatives, for development of tourist resorts.      

While highlighting the potential of Sonamarg in adventure tourism, the Chief Minister issued directions for publicizing Gangabal and Vishensar-Kishensar Trekking Routes for adventure tourists. He also issued directions for engagement of consultant for laying of golf course, dedicated line to provide uninterrupted power supply, finalizing proposal for scientific disposal of solid and liquid waste, making streetlights in bowel functional, establishment of high-end restaurant / Bukhara, imparting training to locals in landscaping and hospitality and registration of ponywallas.

The Chief Minister also said he will take up with BRO the issue of making Sonamarg Bypass Road functional.

MLA Kangan, Mian Altaf Ahmad and DC Ganderbal, Shaukat Ejaz, were also present in the meeting where CEO SDA gave a detailed presentation.

While taking review of Wullar-Manasbal Development Authority, Mufti Sayeed issued directions for developing the resort as a major water sports destination. He called for promoting area between Waheedpora and Wattalbagh as a rafting point for adventure tourists.

Mufti Sayeed asked the Tourism Department to organize a FAM Tour for adventure tour operators so that visitors are attracted towards Manasbal in a big way.  

He also called upon Commissioner / Secretary Tourism to ensure end-to-end development of the resort so that Wullar-Manasbal Tourism Development Authority and Wullar Development Authority, which is being serviced by Forest & Environment Department for conservation of Asia’s largest freshwater lake, function as separate entities.

While being briefed about the potential of Bandipora district as an independent tourist destination, the Chief Minister asked the Tourism Department to develop Athwatoo as a nature spot. He also asked Director Tourism to develop Vintage Park and Bird Watchers’ Den, besides creating facilities at Buthu village under Pilgrim Tourism.

Mufti Sayeed also instructed Director Tourism to coordinate with Irrigation & Flood Control Department to connect Manasbal Lake with Ahansar and Khorbagh lakes, which were linked in the past. He also passed instructions for rehabilitating 84 households of Kondabal village by identifying an alternate site. In the flood fury of 2014, the village facing the lake front, was totally inundated causing widespread damage to the residential houses.  

It was given out in the meeting that due to threat of siltation in Manasbal lake, stone quarrying has been banned in the catchment areas for the last two years.

The Chief Minister was also briefed about conceiving a plan for development of Ningli, near Wullar Lake, as a tourist resort.

Chief Town Planner also briefed the Chief Minister about the Draft Master Plan for tourism development of Manasbal Development Authority and its notified areas.     

MLA Sonawari, Akbar Lone, MLA Bandipora, Usmaan Majeed, MLA Ganderbal, Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar, MLC, Yasir Reshi and DC Bandipora, Shah Faisel and DC Ganderbal, Shaukat Ejaz also attended the meeting.  

While chairing meeting to finalize the Draft Master Plan for Gulmarg resort, the Chief Minister emphasized upon promoting Kashmir’s best known all-season destination as Corporate / Convention Hub. He also issued immediate directions for providing dedicated power and frost-proof piped water supply so that footfall of high-end visitors to Gulmarg increases in winter.

The Chief Minister again reiterated promotion of Gulmarg as India’s Davos, which hosts country’s top businessmen for annual summits, on lines of World Economic Forum, held at Davos in Swtizerland every year.   

The Chief Minister also passed instructions for working out modalities for developing Botapathri as a tourist destination and organizing laser shows at Children’s Amusement Park at Gulmarg.

Later, the Chief Minister also inspected the functioning of Gulmarg Cable Car and the Maharaja’s Palace, which is being reconstructed by GDA in collaboration with INTACH.

MLA Tangmarg, Abbas Wani and Deputy Commissioner, Baramulla, Peerzada Mushtaq, also attended the meeting, where CEO GDA, Nazir Ahmad, gave a detailed presentation. 

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