Anantnag: The inadequate eco-friendly infrastructure is keeping tourists away from the most scenic attractions in south Kashmir's Anantnag district.
Kokernag, the heart of Brengi valley and known for freshwater springs, virgin forests and Brengi stream, a major tributary of the Jhelum, used to attract large number of tourists pre-1990s. However, it has now turned into a desolate place.
The botanical garden and Asia’s largest trout fish farm remain the major attractions in Kokernag. Connected from one side to Achabal and from the other to Daksum, the Sinthan Top was bought under Kokernag Development Authority (KDA) in 2005-06. However, so far the only infrastructure in place at Kokernag is a few odd JKTDC and tourist huts, one fishery hut and some low budgeted rooms of KDA currently occupied by village heads.
Even as the locals here are against raising concrete structures, they do want the place be developed as an eco-friendly tourism destination to regain its glory.
“We don’t want this place to be turned into a concrete jungle like Pahalgam has been. But to woo local and outside tourists, the basic infrastructure must be provided,” Imitiyaz Ahmad, a local said.
He added that the government should facilitate the construction of few huts, eateries and restaurants in the area.
“To protect the ecology of this place, government instead of having hotels here, should focus on beautification of villages like Vailoo, Gohan, Bidihaad, Bidar, Hillar, Wangam, Larnoo , Matigawran, Dandipora, Ahlan and Gadole,” Muhamad Salim, another local suggested.
He said that small eco-friendly guest houses and huts can be constructed by locals itself. “Daksum wildlife sanctuary and fish farm in Kokernag should be properly maintained,” Salim said.
Falling en-route Kishtwar, the small hill resort of Daksum located at 2,438m along the Brengi river valley can be an attraction for tourists as it has a wildlife sanctuary, sheep farm, and dense forest. However, it too is devoid of basic tourist infrastructure. The wildlife, animal husbandry, JKTDC hut, and tourist bungalow are defunct.
The place is known for plenty of camping spots and from Daksum the trail rises fairly steeply to the Sinthan Pass located at the height of 3,748m.
“We have one amusement park and a hut at Dandipora,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO), KDA, Altaf Wani told Greater Kashmir. He said the authority is also constructing a hut at Achabal.
The locals say the delay in taking up the Vialoo-Singhpora tunnel connecting the valley with Kishtiwar headquarters was keeping people from monetary benefits.
“If this project is executed, it besides developing tourism would promote trade activities,” locals said.
Another road, from Mati-Gawran, leads to breathtaking Warwan and Marwah valleys of Ksihtiwar district but are still inaccessible.
People demand the upgradation work be expedited on the Matigawran - Inshan – Warwan - Marwa road project. “Only light vehicles ply on this route during summer but it is fraught with dangers,” said Manzoor Ahmad,.
Inshan Top, Margan Top, Dachan, Aalwi Maidan, Fambar Nallah (known for trout fish), Chohar Nag are the trekker's delight. “Efforts should be made to promote trekking expeditions,” locals said.
They say nearly three decades back its mountains used to be the favourite destination for foreign trekkers.
Achabal also known for its freshwater springs and botanical garden has also failed to woo tourists for want of infrastructure. “Apart from a Dak Bungalow and tourist cafeteria, there is nothing much here,” said Mashkoor Ahmad of Achabal.
A link road from Kokernag via Lissar leads to Verinag, another scenic resort also known for freshwater springs and the origin of the Jhelum river.
"If the government is able to develop proper eco-friendly infrastructure at these scenic spots, it would ease the burden on Pahalgam and Gulmarg which remain jam-packed due to ever-increasing tourist rush," a KDA official said.