Kupwara: Spread over an area of about 300 square kms, the Bangus Valley in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district is by and large an unexplored tourist destination.
With its scenic beauty, sloppy topography, grassland with flora, streams flowing with trout fish, the Bangus Valley has a great prospect of ecotourism.
The place has a great potential to become an international tourist spot. Experts say that Asia’s biggest golf course can be made at the place which has green meadows spiraling over hundreds of kanals.
The Mawer stream which originates from Kaij Nag in Bangus provides water to most of the villages in Handwara sub district. Similarly Sathkhol Nag is a source of water to many rivers in the district.
The Valley comprises two parts: Bodh Bangus (Big Bangus) and Lakut Bangus (Small Bangus). These meadows provide an ideal and ample space for adventure camping.
The less explored Bangus valley is as beautiful as Pahalgam, Sonmarg and Gulmarg. It is around 140 kms from Srinagar.
Bangus Valley has three routes through which people can reach the place, one is from Mawer side of Handwara, second one is from Rajwar side of Handwara and the third one is from Chowkibal, Kupwara.
All the three approach roads to Bangus passing through various forest ranges provide an ample opportunity for those in search of adventure.
Bangus came into limelight during the recent years when Kashmir valley witnessed several unrests post 2016. With the normal life remained standstill for several months in 2016 and 2019, people in absence of mobile connectivity across all districts of Kashmir preferred to explore the Bangus valley.
Even during last year when authorities enforced strict lockdown due to surge in COVID-19, people would prefer to visit Bangus and spend time in the lush green meadows.
In 2011 the then state government established Lolab-Bangus-Drangyari Development Authority. A decade down the line, no signs of development can be seen on the ground.
"The approach road of 2kms from Chowkibal to Bangus has not been constructed yet, and the available 3 feet uphill road is a great source of discomfort for adventurers who have to walk the distance by foot," said a single time explorer.
Similarly, the 2 km approach roads from Rajwar and Mawer side are also yet to be constructed with the result most of the people drop the idea of visiting Bangus because of the rough terrain.
"Lack of accommodation and in absence of motorable road up to Bangus people usually do not prefer to visit Bangus. If infrastructure would be developed here it will certainly replace other tourist destinations," said Asif Malik a journalist from Sarmarg Handwara.
People have appealed to the LG administration and the Central Government to develop the Bangus Valley as an International tourist resort so that the people across Kupwara district may get source of livelihood.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Kupwara who holds additional charge as Chief Executive Officer Lolab-Bangus-Drangyari Development Authority, Nazir Ahmad Lone, told Greater Kashmir that the whole Bangus valley pertains to forest department which is not allowing to construct permanent structures here. "We have already two base camps in place at Reshwari from Mawer side and in Drangyari from Chowkibal side. Whosoever wants to explore the Bangus Valley can have a stay here and then proceed," the CEO added. He said that people with their tents can also stay in Bangus.
Meanwhile Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez told Greater Kashmir that since Bangus is an eco-sensitive zone and coming up with permanent structures here can disturb the fragile environment.
“Nature should be left untouched and coming up with concrete structures can disturb the eco-friendly atmosphere. For campers and tented colonies, the department is constructing bio-toilets there,” he said.
Sarmad said that this year the Tourism department is going to organize eco-friendly activities like trekking and camping at Bangus and in some other areas of district Kupwara so that people from other parts can explore these beautiful areas.
On being asked about the vacant post of Chief Executive Officer of Lolab Bangus Drangyari Development Authority, he said that department is looking forward to depute a permanent person there. He said that LBDD Authority has done well in recent years by coming up with several rest houses on all three routes leading to Bangus.