A Disastrous Move
LINKING POONCH TO GULMARG BY ROAD OVER FRAGILE PIRPANJAL RANGE WOULD BE ENVIRONMENTAL AND WILDLIFE DISASTER IN KASHMIR, CAUTIONS MUHAMMAD YUSUF
This refers to the meeting of some J&K Ministers and bureaucrats, held in Srinagar recently in connection with the construction of a road on Poonch-Gulmarg sector in Kashmir. Many environmentalists, explorers and the adventurers are not happy with this proposal. They fear that it would be detrimental for preservation of natural beauty of the scenic and walling Pirpanjal range in Kashmir Himalayas. The Forest and Environment Minister is requested to review the decision taken in the meeting.
The players connected with adventure tourism, feel that the construction of the proposed road via Ferozpur nallah over fragile Pirpanjal range near Gulmarg would never help promote tourism there as is presumed by the Government. It would instead prove disastrous for Gujars, adventure tourism and wildlife. The proposed road would undoubtedly destroy wild mountain beauty of the area, where there is immense scope of promoting snow sports like snowboarding, Alpine ski, ski-touring, lug, bobsledding; trekking and other adventure tourism related outdoor pursuits. . It is admitted fact that Pirpanjal range is considered the best place for skiing in entire Himalayas. There are many virgin ski resorts just behind Mount Apharwat which need be connected to Gulmarg through cable cars. The nearby Tosamaidan region and lofty Sunrise, Sunset and Tatakoti peaks are other attractions for extreme skiers.
The circular Mughal Road Trekking via Shopian, Poshiana, Alliabad, Pir Ki Gali, Poonch, Loren, Zamian pass, Ferozpur Nallah and Gulmarg was most popular amongst the students of Kashmir University in early eighties. Half the trekking route from Hurpora (Shopian) to Poonch is already vanished with the construction of Mughal Road in this area so we will have to preserve the remaining part from Poonch to Gulmarg for our posterity. The destruction of trekking routes will badly tell upon the increasingly popular adventure tourism. We will have to safeguard the areas where there is possibility of conducting bush walking, high altitude trekking and climbing for our growing tourism. We have paid heavy toll for such mistakes in the past. I quote an example here that the Lehinwan to Inshan trek in Kishtwar Himalayas was very popular among foreign tourists in recent past. Nearly 1000 high end tourists used to undertake trekking on this route annually but ever since the road was laid here no one desired to trek around there. It was a big setback for adventure tourism in Kishtwar area. It is estimated that Kishtwar trekking expeditions were generating directly about 30,000 man days of work for laborers, cooking crew and pony owners etc. every tourist season with the annual income of nearly 2.5 crores of Indian rupees. Similarly after construction of many other roads in Zanaskar Himalayas the foreign travel companies severed their trekking programmes there. Another most popular route from Panikhar to Manali also met the same fate.
How nice it would have been if the Government could operate Twin Otter aircrafts for conveyance of handful mountain dwellers instead of laying expensive black topped roads through the mountainous terrains. Due to soil erosion and heavy snow fall in the Pirpanjal range we doubt if the Gulmarg-Poonch road could ever become all weather road.
The proposed road from Poonch to Gulmarg would perhaps also be not in the interests of Gujars and Bakerwals who otherwise prefer to travel through pastures to feed their cattle enroute. The wildlife and Gujjar community will be badly affected as the road may demolish their habitat. Pertinently this area habitats some extinct species of wildlife including snow leopard, brown bear, fox and musk dear etc. Similarly it would tell upon the environment and future adventure tourism here. The Forest and Environment Minister is appealed to keep all these drawbacks in mind before implementing the deliberations of the meeting.
I do not understand what made them think of laying yet another road to link Kashmir to Poonch when the Mughal Road has just been opened for general traffic. Connecting Poonch to Gulmarg through Cable Car could be suitable both for the development of winter tourism and for providing round the year transportation to the locals here. This is amazing that many European countries are linked to each other through cable cars. One can travel from Switzerland to Austria or other neighboring countries by a Cable Car but alas! We cannot travel from one district to another through this mode of transportation. Laying road on this mountainous terrain would perhaps cost more money than the cable Car.
Winter sports are becoming increasingly popular in Gulmarg. On weekends and holidays thousands of tourists are seen skiing here. It is certain that after fifty years there will be no space for people to ski here. The backdrop of Mount Apharwat is an ideal requirement for winter sports athletes, so is to preserve it for our posterity. The authorities should therefore desist from constructing one more road in Pirpanjal range. The Government should consult the subject experts before taking big decisions concerning the environment and biodiversity etc. The Union Minister of State for Kashmir Affairs, Mr. Prithvi Raj Chouhan is also requested to stop facilitating the J&K Government in building the proposed Poonch-Gulmarg road. Instead he should arrange construction of tunnels at Shitkari (Sonamarg) and Zojila to make it all weather roads, which would help us to develop Sonamarg as winter sports destination. Constructing an all weather road between Bandipore and Gurez for promotion of tourism there is also essential.
It is astonishing that besides Pirpanjal, there is a plan to lay one more road in Sindh valley connecting Kangan to Gangabal which may later be extended to Telail. This road will certainly end up the most popular alpine trekking route from Sonamarg to Naranag via Krishensar and Gangabal and perish number of high altitude lakes. Gangabal is a sacred lake for Hindus. The Kashmiri pundits believe that the Ganga actually originates from this Lake. We hope the Minister for Forests and Environment, Jenab Mian Altaf Ahamad is serious to develop Sonamarg as adventure.
(The author teaches Aquatics and Adventure Sports at Depít. of Physical Education, University of Kashmir. He can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or can be called at 9419707307. The views expressed are authorsí own.)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 1 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 1 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 2 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OP-ED
GK NEWS NETWORK
Srinagar, Aug 1: The killing spree across the Valley including those who were shot dead in Pampore and Khrew on Sunday has evoked strong condemnation. TROOPERS GIVEN LICENCE TO KILL: MIRWAIZ The More
- South Asia
Bangalore, Aug 1: Kashmiris staying here staged a peaceful protest march from Garuda Mall through the Brigade Road and held a sit-in outside the newspaper offices on Saturday demanding immediate halt to More