May 2005 News

World's highest cable car to boost tourism

16 May 2005
The Hindu

Srinagar: After several postponements, the world's highest and the Asia's longest cable car project at the famed ski resort of Gulmarg will finally be inaugurated on May 28, official sources said on Monday. The five-km-long ropeway project - Gulmarg Gondola - a joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and French firm Poma Glaski, was earlier scheduled to be inaugurated by UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi on April 8, a day after she along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were to launch the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service on April 7. However, the inauguration was cancelled after Ms. Gandhi cut short her visit and air-dashed to Delhi on April 7 itself immediately after the first cross-border bus service was flagged off. The sources said that the project has been completed in record time of about two years at the cost of Rs. 3 crore. The cable car, which has been extended further by 2.65 km, will connect the bowl-shaped Kongdoori Valley with Afarwat, situated 13 km from the tourist resort of Gulmarg, and at an altitude of 13,400 ft (4,390 mt). The second phase from Kangdoori to Afarwat was finished well ahead of time. Jammu and Kashmir State Cable Car Corporation (JKSCCC) officials said the project is aimed at promoting Gulmarg, 52 km from here, as a premier skiing destination in the world and give a major boost to the militancy-hit tourism industry in Kashmir. Preparations for the successful launch of the cable car have been completed, they added. The officials said engineers worked in huge drifts of snow to erect towers and lay cables in the area close to the Line of Control (LoC), overlooking Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK). The French company has also built the only other cable car in Kashmir, connecting Gulmarg to Kongdoori at a height of 3,930 mt. They said work on the project was delayed by more than eight years after it was abandoned in 1990 when two French engineers were abducted by militants. It was completed in 1998. The Afarwat project, due to be completed last year, was delayed owing to bad weather. 'There is a limited working period. There is also sub- zero temperature for most several months in a year,' they added. The ropeway, which has 36 cabins, is expected to ferry about 600 tourists to and fro Afarwat peak. The project, likely to be inaugurated by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, comprises 18 towers and 30 stations. Earlier skiers used to access the destination by helicopters thus burdening them financially. 'The ropeway will make skiing a very cost effective venture for tourists. It will be a viable option for domestic visitors also. The return journey on the ropeway will cost Rs 300,' the JKSCCC officials said. 'This is the world's highest and Asia's longest ropeway. It will be the only ropeway in the world that takes skiers to a height of 4,390 mt,' they added.


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