Sonamarg: Famous health resort Sonamarg in Ganderbal district which is witnessing a heavy rush of tourists this year is lacking various measures by the government with regard to its infrastructure upgradation, beautification and conservation.
Sonamarg health resort usually remains closed during winter months due to heavy snowfall. However, this year the administration for the first time tried to keep open it for visitors in winter months.
This had brought a joy and cheer to the tourists, hoteliers and people associated with the tourism sector here.
Sonamarg attracts huge number of local as well as non- local tourists during summers and remains crowded with the huge influx of Amarnath pilgrims who put a stay here during annual yatra.
Sonamarg also has importance as it is gateway to Ladakh and base camp for the Amarnath yatra. However, the government has not built the proper infrastructure at Sonamarg that can attract more visitors to this place.
According to the locals and people associated with the tourism sector here the government has not done anything so far for the beautification of Sonamarg.
They said that Sonamarg has no parks where one can sit and refresh themselves or have a get together. They said that Sonamarg has to offer nothing for the upper class tourists like any Golf course.
Pertinently Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA) was formed in 2003 for the development, beautification and conservation of Sonamarg health resort.
However, it has allegedly failed to upgrade and tap the potential of the area almost. In Sonamarg, there is also no proper accommodation facilities that can be utilised in view of the huge influx of tourists and Amarnath yatris.
As per the data available with the Greater Kashmir, there are about 750 rooms in private sector that can accommodate around 1500-2000 persons and 250 with the government properties those can accommodate around 500 people at at a time.
This means Sonamarg has a total carrying capacity of about 2000-2500 except some tents (campings) that are set to accommodate Amarnath pilgrims.
President Hoteliers Association Sonamarg Farooq Ahmad Hafiz told Greater Kashmir that in private sector Sonamarg has carrying capacity of about 1500-2000 persons, adding that which is sufficient given the present influx of tourists visiting the destination Sonamarg.
He said that during Amarnath Yatra more camping are set to accommodate pilgrims intending to stay here.
Meanwhile, sources said that the three state of the art facilities in Sonamarg constructed at huge amount are not utilised properly by the Sonamarg development authority. These include International Youth hostel, Yatri Niwas and Sonamarg Club.
Sources said that the three state of the art modern facilities belonging to Sonamarg development authority (SDA) at Sonamarg including International Youth Hostel-cum-Adventure Centre constructed at a cost of Rs 3.58 crore, Yatri Niwas constructed at a cost of Rs 3.28 crore and Sonamarg Club constructed at a cost of Rs 3.14 crore havenot been utilized properly as they could have been the major attractions and income generating assets for the government.
These tourism facilities were inaugurated by then chief minister of J&K Omar Abdullah in 2011.
These facilities possess modern health club, recreation halls, auditorium, dormitories, cafeteria, living rooms; and conference places. All sorts of these modern facilities available at Sonamarg would have met the varied requirements, tastes and liking of the tourists, however, these facilities have been given least attention.
Chief Executive Officer Sonamarg Development Authority, Mushtaq Ahmed Rather said that with the usual tourist influx Sonamarg receives the accommodation is sufficient, adding that during Amarnath yatra more tents are set up to accommodate Amarnath pilgrims.
He said that they are proposing some beautification plans for Sonamarg in future. CEO said that they had outsourced international youth hostel but after Covid it has been taken over by the district administration, adding that Yatri Niwas has been outsourced that generated a good amount. He said during last four months more than one lakh tourists visited Sonamarg.