Verinag: Known for freshwater perennial springs considered to be a source of River Jhelum – a lifeline of Kashmir, the scenic spot surrounded by Pir Panjal mountain ranges still remains off the tourist map. Reason: Inadequate infrastructure and promotion.
“The only accommodation there is eight-room budgeted accommodation of Verinag Development Authority (VDA), four-rooms of Jammu and Kashmir Tourist Development Corporation (JKTDC), and 12 rooms of Tourism Department. However, their condition too is not up to the mark,” an official said.
He said that all these structures were raised in the year 2005-06 and since then they were neglected.
There are plenty of scenic spots around Verinag including Imoh, and Hengipora-Kapran, and it is connected to the national highway at Lower Munda and old Jawahar Tunnel.
An official said that the historical Mughal Sarai on the banks of Vitasta at Imoh falling under the VDA is lying defunct and so are the Forest Department huts at Sarbal-Hengipora.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), VDA, Roman Sheikh says that the tourist flow to this scenic spot is minimal and hence the accommodation is sufficient for now.
“We are trying to promote this place as a major tourist destination and simultaneously the infrastructure would be upgraded too,” he said.
The CEO said that the local rush to the scenic spot has been good.
The Verinag is also home to the historic gardens built by Mughal emperor Jahangir in the 17th century.
The gardens are built around the natural springs surrounded by a variety of trees and majestic Chinars.
A stream called Hakkar Nallah descends from the Banihal pass flowing through the village and finally joining the water of springs.
The locals have for long been pressing for solid waste management and sewage treatment plants to stop the spring water from pollution.
“Thankfully the work on this project has been taken up now,” they said.
Locals are also demanding the proper maintenance of Children Park at Verinag and Kulam Chinar at Shankarpora Dooru.
“These parks need attention,” says Hilal Ahmed, a local.
He said recently the locals initiated the cleanliness drive of the Kulam Chinar, abundant in Chinar trees.
Early this week, Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta emphasized on the importance of Verinag as a tourist destination.
“Verinag is an important tourist destination and constant efforts are being made to enhance the destination with modern state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure,” he said.
The Chief Secretary made these remarks in his virtual address during the concluding ceremony of the two-day multi-activity event ‘South Kashmir Adventure’ organised by the Directorate of Tourism Kashmir held at Verinag.
Secretary Tourism and Culture, Syed Abid Rasheed Shah; Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Syed Fakhrudin Hamid; Director Tourism Kashmir, Raja Yaqoob Farooq; CEO Verinag, renowned artists, and locals participated in the event.
Maintaining that tourism promotion was a top priority of the government, the Chief Secretary said that Verinag offers scenic beauty at par with other major tourist destinations and all efforts were being taken to tap its full potential.
The Chief Secretary said that there were certain things, which are lacking but it is the endeavour of the government to ensure that the shortcomings are addressed immediately and all the facilities are available to the tourists.
“The serenity and hospitality of the place is mesmerising and has the potential to attract tourists from all over the world,” he said.
Secretary Tourism, Syed Abid Rasheed Shah said that the J&K government was launching new initiatives and attractions for tourists to enjoy which could have a positive impact on the local economy.
With the government now committed to promote Verinag as a model tourist destination this has rekindled fresh hopes among the locals.
“We hope the government lives up to its promise now and promotes it as a major tourist destination,” says Aamir Malik.
He said that the government should allow construction of eco-friendly structures by involving local youth.
“I am sure with a little bit of attention and commitment this place would change the fortunes of Kashmir's tourism industry,” Malik said.