Anantnag, May 6: The inadequate eco-friendly infrastructure is keeping tourists away from the mesmerised scenic beauty of Brengi Valley in south Kashmir's Anantnag district.
Kokernag, the heart of Brengi valley and known for freshwater springs, virgin forests, and Brengi stream, a major tributary of Jehlum- used to attract a large number of tourists prior to the nineties. However, off late, it has turned it into a desolate place.The area is also famous for its springs.
The botanical garden and Asia’s largest trout fish farm, Kalnag potato farm, and Kashwan meadows remain the major attraction in Kokernag.
It is connected on one side to Achabal and on another side to Daksum, Sinthan Top, bought under Kokernag Development Authority (KDA) in the year 2005-06.
However, so far the only infrastructure in place at Kokernag are a few odd JKTDC and tourist huts, one fishery hut, and low budgeted accommodation rooms of KDA currently occupied by village heads.
Even as the locals here are against raising- up concrete structures but are for developing the place as an eco-friendly tourism destination to regain its glory.
“ We do not want this place to be turned into a concrete jungle like Pahalgam has been. But to woo both local, and outside tourists, the basic infrastructure should be provided,” said Aadil Ahmad, a local.He said that government should facilitate the construction of a few huts, eateries, and restaurants in the area.
“We do not want the ecology of the place with lush green forests, meadows, streams, and freshwater springs to be spoiled at the cost of the development. So, the government instead of inviting the hoteliers to construct huge hotels should focus on the beautification of villages like Vailoo, Gohan, Bidihaad, Bidar, Hillar, Wangam, Larnoo, Matigawran, Dandipora, Ahlan, and Gadole,” said another local, Muhammad Salim.
He said small eco-friendly guest houses and huts can be constructed by locals at these designated spots.“ Daksum wildlife sanctuary and fish farm in Kokernag should be properly maintained,” Salim said.
Situated en route Kishtiwar the small hill resort of Daksum located at 2,438m along the Brengi river valley can be an attraction for tourists as it has a wildlife sanctuary, sheep farm, and dense forest. However, it too is devoid of basic tourist infrastructure.
The wildlife, animal husbandry, JKTDC huts, and Tourist bungalow are lying defunct. The place is known for plenty of camping spots and from Daksum the trail rises fairly steeply to the Sinthan Pass located at the height of 3,748m.
“ We have one amusement park and a hut at Dandipora,” an official in Kokernag Development Authority (KDA) told Greater Kashmir.He said the authority is also constructing a hut at Achabal.“Chatapal, a resort located in Shangus area, falling under KDA has an uncanny resemblance with Pahalgam and if provided with ample infrastructure and promotion can attract a lot of tourists,” an official said.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), KDA Altaf Wani Wani, however, said the government is working on several projects to woo tourists to these spots.
“ We have constructed six huts so far at Chatapal and another at Bidihad-Kokernag and they will be outsourced soon,” Wani said. He said the facilitation center would also be coming up at Daksum. The locals say the delay in taking up the Vialoo-Singhpora tunnel connecting the valley with Kishtiwar headquarters was preventing people from accruing economic benefits.“ If this project is executed it besides developing tourism would promote trade activities,” locals said. Another road, from Mati-Gawran, leads to breathtaking Warwan and Marwah valleys of Kishtiwar district but is still inaccessible.
People also are for expediting work on the up-gradation of Matigawran- Inshan –Warwan-Marwa road project, another alternate route from Chatapal-Daradpora –area of Shangus via Choidraman, and the construction of a tunnel from Marwa to Chatroo .
“Only light vehicles ply on this route during summer but it is fraught with dangers,” said Manzoor Ahmad.
CEO, KDA said that they are also planning to construct huts at Sinthan Top and Margan Top.“ The project needs forest clearance.”
Inshan Top, Margan Top, Dachan, Aalwi Maidan, Fambar Nallah ( known for trout fish), Chohar Nag is the trekker's delight. “ Efforts should be made to promote trekking expeditions,” say locals.They say nearly three decades back its mountains used to be the favorite destination of foreign trekkers.
Achabal, known for its freshwater springs and botanical garden has also failed to woo tourists, for lack of infrastructure.“ Apart from a Dak Bungalow and tourist cafeteria, there is nothing much here,” said Mashkoor Ahmad of Achabal. A link road from Kokernag via Lissar leads to Verinag, another scenic resort also known for freshwater springs and the origin of the Jehlum river.
"If the government is able to develop proper eco-friendly infrastructure in these scenic spots, it would ease the burden on Pahalgam and Gulmarg which remain jam-packed due to the ever-increasing tourist rush," believes a KDA official.