Tourism potential of Gurez Valley goes waste for want of facilities

A tourist reception centre and two tourist huts are all that the Gurez Valley has in hospitality sector to flaunt.

The Gurez Valley, once a part of the ancient Silk Route, has witnessed a fair increase in tourist footfall over past some years, but not indeed commensurate to its potential.

Nazir Ahamd, Panch from Dawar-A here said that a tourist hut built some years ago is in ruins for want of upkeep. “Ironically it is being utilised for storing raw material by different departments,” he says.

Abdul Rahim, Sarpanch Dawar here said that the condition of another tourist hut in nearby Wanpora is no different.  “The TRC here is not even sufficient to accommodate tourist rush during peak season,” he said.

Rahim, who also heads the association of Sarpanchs and Panchs in Gurez, said that the Gurez festival which helped local economy has not been held for over two to three years.

BJP DDC member from Tulail, Raja Aijaz, while talking with Greater Kashmir said: “There is near zero infrastructure in Gurez, though few useless huts and a TRC are there in Dawar. Tulail has seen no tourism-related infrastructure.”

He said to harness the full potential of Gurez a separate Gurez Tourism Development Authority should be made.

A dam site of 330 MW Kishanganga hydel power project at Kanzalwan village, here, according to locals, is also evolving as a tourist attraction site which needs further development.

Locals said some years ago during the popular government, the tourism ministries had made field visits to identify spots for tourism development. “Even the local residents were told to modify their homes, for which government funding was assured, to accommodate tourists, but that plan never materialised,” locals said.

Among the scenic destinations falling along Bandipora-Gurez road include Tragbal Pass, which gives a scintillating view of Wular Lake, and Razdan Top, which is located at an elevation of 12000 feet. “No good infrastructure has been developed at these destinations for the tourists,” locals said, adding that a cafeteria at Razdan Top needs renovation.

The Kishanganga river and its tributaries having gushing icy waters are home to famous snow trout and other varieties which locals say could be harnessed for angling sport for adventurists, while the mountains tracks leading to lakes like Patalwan and others could also be promoted for adventure tourism.

Locals said that a tunnel for Gurez could help promote all-weather tourism to the place.  “We face dearth of essential commodities when the road connecting Gurez Valley to rest of the world is closed for six long months during winters,” Rahim said.

“Gurez also has the potential of snow skiing, but no event has ever been held here for this purpose,” Rahim said, while stressing for organising snow cricket tournaments to highlight the significance of this place.

Executive Engineer Tourism department, Zahoor Ahmad, said that a Rs 2 crore proposal to augment accommodation and expand TRC Gurez stands approved and work allotted. “However, due to COVID-19 and bad weather, the work could not be started, but as and when the weather improves the work will start,” he said.

He said the existing tourist huts at Izmarag and Khandyal will also be renovated.

The officer said that the department is contemplating to develop “separate tourism sector” for Gurez under Prime Minister’s Development Programme so that further remote places are also developed in terms of infrastructure.

He said that a Rs 38 crore DPR has been prepared wherein all the tourism-related development ranging from river rafting, tracking and exploring Gurez have been proposed.