Destination Sonamarg: Addition to Kashmir’s winter tourism this season

Admin gears up to keep health resort accessible; Hoteliers seek better facilities
Destination Sonamarg: Addition to Kashmir’s winter tourism this season
Sonamarg usually remains closed for tourists for nearly 4 to 5 months of the winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches.File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Sonamarg: For the first time, the administration is gearing up to keep the popular health resort Sonamarg in Ganderbal accessible for tourists during winter, all set to make it yet another winter tourist destination in Kashmir.

Every year during winter, Sonamarg remains closed for traffic movement due to the heavy snowfall and avalanches at several places along the road from Gagengar upto Sonamarg.

The road leading to the famous health resort Sonamarg remains closed for nearly 4 to 5 months during winter.

However, with progress on the construction of Z- Morh tunnel near Sonmarg, one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Kashmir, could remain open this winter, official sources told Greater Kashmir.

A series of meetings with the district administration , Sonamarg Development Authority and all the stakeholders including Hoteliers, traders have been held in the recent past during which the authorities took review of the preparations for keeping Sonamarg open during winter.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir P K Pole last month chaired a high level meeting of the officers to take stock of the arrangements being made to keep Sonamarg health resort open during winter.

Senior officials of Jal Shakti (PHE), PDD, Health, Tourism, SDA attended the meeting. During the meeting the hoteliers and traders urged the administration to make proper arrangements like electricity, water and communication which gets snapped or disrupted due to heavy snowfall in the area during winter.

The Div Com Kashmir had instructed all the departments to make proper arrangements with regard to electricity, water, fire wood, health and security so that the visitors and locals don't feel any inconvenience.

President Sonamarg Hoteliers Association Farooq Ahmed Hafiz said that they have raised the issue of electricity, water and communication with the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir who assured that all arrangements would be put in place.

"We are ready to cooperate with the government to carry out our business during winter but the government should make requisite arrangements so that we don't suffer there”.

Another hotelier, Shehzad Rasool told Greater Kashmir that few hotels are willing to be operational during winter. However, he said it is a challenging task to function and provide required services to clients in this part of the Valley during winters. “We have demanded that besides proper arrangements of electricity and water there should be a fire tender and an ATM installed so that the visitors or during any exigencies there are arrangements. If the government is serious about promoting Sonamarg as a winter tourist destination it should provide all required necessities to Hoteliers so that the visitors don't face any inconvenience like snow clearance from roads, uninterrupted electricity, water, health and other facilities,” Rasool said.

Locals said that the government was more keen on promoting Gulmarg and Pahalgam while “Sonamarg was being neglected”. They said the tourism department should also hold and organise events that will attract visitors towards Sonamarg.

Meanwhile, talking to the Greater Kashmir, Chief Executive Officer, Sonamarg Development Authority Mushtaq Ahmed Rather said that the government is keen to keep Sonamarg open during winter for tourism activities.

" Now with the completion of the escape tunnel of Z morh tunnel has been completed it will be used for vehicular traffic movement during any emergency. The tourism department has been asked to make arrangements so that some winter games are held in Sonamarg " Rather said. He said that some skiing and other courses are being organised in Sonamarg this year.

Pertinent to mention that the work on the 6.5 KM long Z morh tunnel being constructed near Sonamarg on Srinagar-Leh highway is going on in full swing with the escape tunnel completed. The completion of the tunnel will ensure round the year connectivity between Srinagar and Sonamarg. This will boost up the socio-economic development in the area and will be the first step towards providing all weather connectivity between Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Greater Kashmir