‘Unregulated Tourist Rush Taking Toll On Valley Tourism Spots’14 November 2011
Srinagar: Maintaining that unregulated tourist rush is taking heavy toll on the fragile eco-system of tourism spots in J&K, the government of India has favoured regulation of tourism inflow in the State. In an exclusive interview with Greater Kashmir, Secretary Union Ministry of Tourism, R H Khwaja, who recently undertook on the spot assessment of various tourism places in the Valley, expressed his concern over rapid deterioration of fragile environment. “Unregulated tourist rush is definitely taking a heavy toll on the tourist spots in the Valley. The famous hill-station Pahalgam particularly its town is not in a good shape. The resort is littered with garbage as too many tourist visit there. I was shocked to see all the way to Thajawas Glacier in Sonamarg littered with garbage and pony dung,” Khwaja said. Incidentally this year a record 12 lakh tourists and 6 lakh Amarnath yatris visited the State. The Union Tourism Secretary also pointed out that world famous ski-resort Gulmarg remains overcrowded due to heavy tourist inflow. “Tourists queue for hours together near Gondola which is a popular initiative by the State Government. Though we can’t deny assess to tourists to enjoy ride in Gondola, but we need to regulate the number of tourism according to carrying capacity of the ski-resort. I have conveyed my suggestions to the State Government in this regard,” he said. Khwaja who previously had stint with the Minister of Environment and Forests, said entry to core wildlife areas including sanctuaries in the State should also be restricted. “The forests and wildlife areas are rich source of biological diversity. Seventy percent of medicines are found in nature. As far as tourism zones are concerned, ecologically sensitive areas like sanctities and wildlife parks must have controlled or regulated tourism on the pattern of Jim Corbett Park in Uttrakhand and Ranthambore in Rajasthan,” he said. However, he said there is no need of any new legislation to regulate the tourism flow. “Tourism is basically guideless, advisories and persuasion. As far as the legal aspect is concerned, the law of a particular area will come into force,” he said citing the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Wildlife Protect Act 1972. “It depends in which area the tourism spot falls and the rules and Acts will automatically apply. There should be no exception to observe these regulations in letter and spirit,” he said. He said the places which are high on tourism popularity in the State should be kept clean especially from the perspective of foreign tourism. “And the domestic tourists should be educated not to dump garbage or waste water and respect the beauty and sanctity of the tourist spots. Tourist should be encouraged to walk and use of vehicles and ponies should be minimized to prevent pollution of the fragile areas. Ponywallas should be motivated to dump dung in a wicker basket and use it as fertilizer,” he said. Khwaja said the State Government can open unexplored tourism spot to lessen burden on major tourist spots. “Government of India will give all the support for development of new places of tourism interest. However, the initiative lies with the State Government because it is the best judge which places should developed, he said. However, he minced no words over the deterioration of world famous Dal lake which has served a major tourist attraction. “Dal is drying up rapidly. There is no point blaming anybody. Everybody has to work together to protect and restore Dal lake. After all, it not only the pride of Kashmir but whole India,” he asserted. Khwaja had recently trekked from Aru and Lidderwath in Pahalgam with a team of State Tourism officials led by CEO Gulmarg Development Authority Mehmood Ahmad Shah. “We have been providing funds to the State Government for improving trekking facilities. I wanted to have first hand exposure of the track. I must admit that the scenery along the way is spectacularly beautiful,” he said. “My trek to Aru will have a positive impact and definitely encourage the professional trekkers to start their activities in the Valley,” he said. On the travel advisories by some countries against Jammu and Kashmir, Khwaja said New Delhi has taken several measures to get them revoked. “We keep encouraging our missions abroad to bring true facts of the situation in the State before the respective countries which have imposed the travel advisories. But it is a question of putting forth our case. Germany has recently revoked the advisory which is very encouraging. We hope that many countries would take cue from it and revoke the advisories in light of improvement of situation in the State,” the Union Secretary said.