Govt opens Lolab valley for tourism

To Bank On Age-Old Kalaroos Caves, Satbaran Monument

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Chandigham, (Lolab), Sep 30: In its endeavor to open up virgin tourist places in Jammu and Kashmir, the state government on Sunday opened the picturesque Lolab valley in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district for visitors.
 Blessed with lush forests and gushing streams, Lolab valley is also famous for centuries old Kalaroos caves and Satbaran monument. The Government has decided to market these caves for attracting tourists to the scenic spot.
 The State’s Tourism Department in collaboration with the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) organized a three-day Lolab-Bangus-Drangyari festival at Chandigham to promote these tourist places.
 However, the Government formally announced opening of the Lolab valley for tourism today.
 “It is a historic day for people of Kupwara that Lolab valley has been brought on the tourism map of the state,” Minister of State for Tourism, Nasir Aslam Wani said while addressing a seminar ‘Booming Times— Incredible Challenges’ at Lolab.
 Nasir said that despite possessing massive tourism potential, people of Lolab live in abject poverty. “Tourism activities will not only uplift them but also provide them with sustained livelihood. People here should be ready to host tourists soon,” he said.
 However, Nasir maintained that tourism to Lolab will be regulated in tandem with its carrying capacity. “We will not allow tourism to affect fragile ecosystem of Lolab. We will promote eco-tourism activities including home-stays, fishing, and trekking in the area,” Nasir said.
 Nasir, who is also Minister of State for Home, said Bangus valley located near the Line of Control in Kupwara, will also be opened soon.
 “The Canadian firm which conducted survey of Bangus has submitted its report to the State Government. We will discuss the report with experts and tourism stakeholders before opening Bangus for tourism,” Nasir added.
 President TAAK, Rauf Tramboo, said the Association has decided to promote Lolab as a tourist destination
 “Owing to its unmatched natural beauty, Lolab is bound to attract tourists who want to spend time in solace. Tourists who will visit this enchanting place will go back with lasting memories,” Tramboo said.
 Tramboo said to sustain and maintain tourism boom which Kashmir witnesses for past few years, is full of challenges
 “The challenges that our tourism industry faces are within, not only by virtue of political reasons but also from players of the industry itself. On the one hand we the tourism players have so fare successfully managed to market and cater the industry even in the most adverse and unfavorable situations but on the other hand we have not been cent percent successful in providing quality services to our valued guests,” he said.
 He stressed for upgrading of services to tourists and proper road connectivity to the tourist places.
 Convener INTACH (Kashmir Chapter) Muhammad Saleem Beg said Lolab has all the ingredients of being an attractive tourist destination.
 ‘But we should not let Lolab met the fate of other tourist places of the Valley. We should try to regulate tourism in Lolab and protect its fragile eco-system by promoting eco-tourism activities,” Beg said.
 Beg said that caves in Kalaroos have immense tourism potential. “Due to militancy operation in past two decades some caves in Kalaroos have been blocked which needs to be restored,” he said.
 A mammoth monumental site called Satbaran (seven doors of carved stones) which depict carved architecture, has become a focus to bring Lolab on tourism map.
 “Some finds at the site indicate that the area must have been an important Buddist or early Hindu pilgrim site. Once the Archeological survey is conducted it will open up a very significant cultural layer of international importance in the area and help in attracting tourists. But it is a major archeological site and there is an immediate need for initiation archeological exploration of the area,” Beg said.
 Beg who is also a member of Jammu and Kashmir Heritage Authority said it has been decided to commission an elementary archeological survey on the site by qualified archeologists.
 Director Tourism Talat Pervez said Government is committed to promote new and lesser known tourist destinations in the Valley.
 “With the help of tourism stakeholders we will open new destinations and allow tourist inflow at par with their respective carrying capacity,” Pervez site.
 District Development Commissioner Kupwara said Sarmad Hafeez said that all the facilities for smooth stay of tourists will be provided in Lolab. “We will ensure that tourists have a memorable stays in this mesmerizing place. We cannot provide them five star facilities but they will definitely give them memories to cherish for lifetime,” he said.
 “We will undertake carbon dating of Satbaran monument to establish its link with Buddhist Stupa. If the link is proved Lolab will emerge as a new pilgrim tourism destination,” Talat said.
 Locals believe that a tunnel through a cave in Kalaroos leads to some Central Asian countries. They said that first two kilometers of the tunnel can even be covered on foot.
 “We can ascertain factual details about the tunnel only after conducting Archeological studies on it,” Talat said.
 MLA Langate, Er Rasheed stressed for opening of Bangus for tourists. “Army should ensure that tourists are allowed free movement to the tourist spot. Army should have no reservations for it as the LoC is over 25 kilometers away from Bangus,” he said.
 MLA Lolab Abdul Haque said Lolab was a favorite haunt of foreigners a few decades ago. “There are many trekking routes one of which leads to Asia’s largest freshwater lake Wullar. We can market these routes to attract tourists,” he said.
 Chief Executive Officer Lolab-Bungus-Drangyari Development Authority, Muhammad Yasin dwelt about the measures taken by the authority for making these areas as places of tourist attraction.
 On the occasion, Col KC Saklani, Officiating Commanding Officer 8 Sector RR said Army will offer all necessary assistance to provide hassle free stay of tourists in Lolab.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Sep 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Sep 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST




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