River Rafting is considered one of the most important adventure activities that our state could offer to the intended tourists. Commercial Rafting in Kashmir was introduced at Pahalgam during the year 2004. Due to its popularity in Kashmir many rafting companies came into being and generated direct and indirect employment for hundreds of families. Appreciably the rafting companies raised infrastructure for millions of rupees without any support or incentive from the Tourism Department. This year during winter many stakeholders took part in several Tourist Trade Fares and Marts to lure the tourists to Kashmir. They also created websites and spent huge amount on marketing and advertising of this adventure product but unfortunately due to unknown reasons the Tourism Department did not permit these companies to operate this genuine and legal business this year thus causing heavy losses to the companies.
Our Honorable Chief Minister has repeatedly stated in his speeches that he will not leave nay stone unturned to promote adventure tourism in valley but closing rafting at Pahalgam has not only shocked the adventure tour operators but also made them suspicious of the Govts intentions to lease out the adventure tourism to any non-resident or any resourceful person who has no knowledge of adventure tourism. The Kashmir Rafting Operators Association is worried about their new projects which are in the offing. There was no logic to close down the much flourishing rafting trade on river Lidder at the last moment without serving prior notice to the stakeholders. If no genuine reasons for closing down the rafting at Pahalgam are conveyed to adventure operators there is little hope of promotion of adventure tourism in Kashmir for which Tourism department is spending astronomical amount of public money.
To find out the reason why rafting has been banned at Pahalgam while not in Leh the adventure operators have already given representation to Mr. Rafi Ahmad Mir, General Secretary, PDP and Ex-MLA Pahalgam with a hope that white water rafting there is restored soon.
The stakeholders were forced to move to the court and seek direction from the apex Court as our rafting clients have been repeatedly imploring us by emails and phones to restore rafting at Pahalgam so that they dont return home disappointed but the Tourism Department remained unmoved and are ignoring the directions of the Honble court. Two cases are pending in the court against the Tourism Department.
Not only rafting but other adventure products too are not encouraged here. The proposals submitted by the stakeholders to the Tourism Department and Development Authorities are not considered, while non-professional tourism players are encouraged. The development authorities are not functioning aptly. They are not answerable to the people. The rafting companies are still in hope that Chief Minister who is also heading Tourism Ministry would look into the matter and restore White Water Rafting at Pahalgam without losing any more time.
Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir
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