The other side of Tourism
Let's not spoil ourselves while we heartily welcome our guests
The tourist inflow this year is unprecedented. Majority here has been made to believe that booming tourism will bring prosperity. It is a highly exaggerated rather motivated claim. Notwithstanding the misconceived notion that tourism is the backbone of our economy, actually agriculture on the whole and horticulture particularly, is the mainstay of local economy. In the absence of any significant tourism during the decades of turmoil, horticulture along with handicrafts kept going the economy here. It can be said without any inhibitions that the benefits of agriculture economy are far-greater than the present booming tourism, in case the horticulture potential is properly harnessed. The horticulture is not paid as much attention as it justifiably deserves. May be in a conflict ridden Kashmir production of a million apple boxes are incapable of painting a picture of make-believe peace. Conversely arrival of few thousand tourists a day can help the authorities to fantasize that dramatically the intractable bloody conflict has evaporated in the thin air; it’s now all hunky-dory in Kashmir.
The tourist rush is deliberately sold as arrival of peace. Even if the highly questionable claim is to be believed that tourism brings prosperity that insures peace, the irresponsible tourism has wreaked havoc with the ecology of Kashmir. According to a Kashmir University study the carrying capacity of ‘greater Pahalgam’ is ‘4.300 tourists per day’. On the basis of 2011 figures, “the study found that in July, which is both yatra time and peak tourist season, the per day flow of tourists was 16,000”. One can only imagine the horrifying desecration of fragile ecosystems; “the influx of tourists increased the pollutant levels in the Lidder River”. While going through a somewhat angry response of a New Zealand tourist in GK (Care for Kashmir, 06-06 2012) I was deeply embarrassed when she lamented: “How could people casually chuck crisp and chocolate wrappers in amongst the trees that have stood there for so many years? How could they dump plastic bottles into the still-shimmering water? Kashmir is renowned for its beauty but where is the pride and respect for it? I am not sure whether it's laziness or sheer ignorance on the people's part, but I have never been more disgusted in my life”.
We do not need a concerned foreigner to remind us about the ecological disaster in the making. But in order to make few quick bucks we have closed our eyes to an unbearable emerging scenario. Green Kashmir is fast dying. Yes, alas Green Kashmir is dying ecologically as well as metaphorically. Encouraging horticulture means planting more trees and disgustingly tourism here has been reduced to wanton deforestation is not the only moot point. A healthy agriculture economy makes possible equitable and sustained growth. On the contrary tourism a steroid economy hardly insures any long-term progress. Making fast money may be an incentive for a few, but it does not necessarily lead to the overall development and progress in the society. Not only a Ponywallah’s son but his grandson is also condemned to remain a Ponywallah, making mockery of all the claims of social-uplift. How do we measure progress and civility? Having sacks full of money with completely illiterate children is the worst symbol of regression. What is the literacy rate in and around the Dal? Benefits of environment friendly sustainable economy and demerits of ecologically hazardous steroid economy are too apparent; however it is not the real concern.
Provided we are able to find a fine balance between ecology and tourism, let tourists come and come in droves. Despite all the tall claims, the authorities have miserably failed to create necessary and sensible infrastructure to cater the needs of rapidly growing tourism. Millions arriving is a mere hyperbole, where is the room to accommodate all. In the absence of required hotel rooms, the authorities are busy promoting the idea of home paying guests. The social ramifications of tourists staying in homes are tremendous. It is fraught with a grave risk. While encouraging tourism, we must ensure that our social and domestic landscape is not polluted.
Let us strive to preserve the culture while building a sustainable economy that will only lead to prosperity and lasting peace.
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Lastupdate on : Fri, 8 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 8 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 9 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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