Before The Disaster: Save ‘Bungus’ From Feral Human Intervention 

Landscape Picture of Bangus/ courtesy

By Kamran Ashraf Bhat

ONE of the relatively undiscovered, but much-anticipated tourist Spots, ‘Bangus’ is receiving defining momentum related to tourism activities. This mesmerizing valley lies at an altitude of 10, 000 ft above sea level in Jammu and Kashmir’s northern district, Kupwara. The name ‘Bungus’ comes from a combination of two ethnic words ‘Bun’ (wild forests) and ‘Gus’ ( Grass), which explains its geographic location and topography. Bungus has a ‘spine’ of mountain ranges in annular design with gentle substantial, considerable cool temperate grassy slopes and sub-alpine meadows rolling between mighty snowy mountains.

As the Administration of Jammu and Kashmir is constructing roads through forests and rocky hills, it is more important to consider all possible measures which can minimize unabated human intervention with heavy machinery. Unless and until experts in environmental conservation and sustainable tourism management are not deputed for designing the most eco-friendly tourist infrastructure with modern structural values; Bungus will remain capricious with an inconceivable disastrous environmental situation. The administration has to take a full assessment of its current topographic, geographic sensitivity, social and economic impacts, providing remedies to the basic needs of its eco-friendly development.

Meanwhile, the authority in place should use resources according to the possibilities of its future-economic and socio-cultural permanence.

Some suggestions may be taken into consideration for the sustainable development of Bungus as an Eco-friendly Tourist spot.

For instance, less fuel-based automobile intrusion and development of Electric Transportation infrastructure. As roads leading to the main area are available for automobile movement, the carbon emission in the area will be prodigious and indomitable. A buffer zone or hostile parking area should be created far from the actual tourist spot, wherefrom e-transport can be used for transition or a shorter-term solution: light carriage (Tonga) will be beneficial for both environment and a source for local labor opportunity. It will not only restrict carbon footprint but also develop a chance for experiencing nature immensely with your companion. The vehicles of tourists should be charged a fair amount for the green development fund.

Another feasible suggestion would be eco-friendly night-stay infrastructure and a blanket ban on  plastic. The development of infrastructure for Night Stays must be customized under the SOPs of Eco-friendly development. Solar energy must be made as the lone source of energy and programs for recycling should be established also for waste disposal management. The tourists should be strictly prohibited from using plastic disposables or poly-related packing, instead reusable bags or paper bags shall be made available and encouraged to use. People must be motivated to opt for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and the usage of paper or jute bags can cut back on plastic waste and reduce carbon footprints.

Yet another way step in the direction would be to buoy up the local economy. If locals are provided  better economic possibilities with basic conceivability, the community will not only participate in saving the environment but also act as gatekeepers. The engagement of the local population will be a pivotal factor in developing a better community for residents and money that tourists will spend in this area can be a source of reinvestment in local economic corridors. It will mature the local lifestyle and advance household income so that the community will accordingly provide better shelter, quality education, and nutritious food to their children. This economic sector is job-driven and has the possibility to float jobs from urban areas to suburban communities. According to the World travel council, in 2019 the sector employed 1 in 10 people on the planet and it created 1 in 4 of all new jobs globally in the last 5 years. A localized tourism approach will not only support businesses but foster entrepreneurs and ideal business establishments with equal opportunities for all.

Tourism has immense capability to engage people related to all walks of life, it will especially support vulnerable sections of the community, women, and youth. The small Tourist Night Stay Cabin attached to local households can establish a mechanism for a sustainable financial system. It will help families become familiar with innovative solutions for ideas related to tourism and accelerate the integration of different communities.

It is now the responsibility of the Government to create a sustainable tourist place or let the place be vulnerable to a catastrophic disaster.  As Winston Churchill rightly said: “Where there is great power there is great responsibility.”

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • Kamran Ashraf Bhat is a Graduate Student Researcher at Bahcesehir University’s department of Cinema and television and former Joint Editor of Daily Inside Kashmir

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