The picturesque Tosamaidan meadow in Budgam district was on Sunday officially thrown open for public as a new tourism destination.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti declared the meadow open for tourism activities with the inauguration of three-day 'Tosamaidan Festival', an official spokesman said.
Speaking on the occasion, Mehbooba said Tosamaidan will be brought on the tourism map of the state as an independent and distinct resort without disturbing its fragile environment. She stressed the need for promoting the historic meadow through community-driven adventure and rural tourism initiative to facilitate turnaround of socio-economic profile of the locals, especially the youth.
The Chief Minister also announced a new Tourism Development Authority for Tosamaidan to "ensure focused and distinctive development" of the area.
"The Government will constitute a new Tourism Development Authority for Tosamaidan which will be integrated with Gulmarg, Yusmarg and Dodhpathri Tourism Development Authorities to promote it as an Adventure Tourism Circuit," the Chief Minister said, and added that the Circuit will be promoted for "niche tourist activities like paragliding, trekking, skiing, boating and mountaineering."
She said Tosamaidan has "huge potential for adventure tourism apart from normal tour and picnic activities and winter and adventure tourism can take main lead in the area." She however stressed the need for preserving the fragile ecosystem of the area at any cost.
The Chief Minister called for greater public-private interface to create a sustainable revenue model by optimally utilizing the available infrastructure locally to the economic advantage of the local residents. She said the Government would build the capacity of the locals in the tourism related activities so that they are the maximum beneficiaries of the tourist activities in their respective areas. "To begin with, 50 local Kothawalas would provide the facilities to those visiting the Tosamaidan meadow," she said and added that the Tourism Department would assist these Kothawalas to create the requisite facilities for providing adequate boarding and lodging facilities to the tourists.
The Chief Minister made it clear that she would never allow the picturesque meadow to be turned into a "concrete jungle" as has unfortunately happened with other tourist resorts in the State.
"Every initiative on part of Tourism department will be taken keeping in view the local environs and economy," she said. "I will never allow despoiling of this beautiful meadow while promoting tourism activities here."
Stressing the need for developing requisite infrastructure in the area, the Chief Minister called for immediate construction of an all-weather road to the meadow. She, however, said that the proposed road would not be taken inside the bowl as has happened with Gulmarg.
She also asked the officials of Forest Department to go for massive plantation drive in the area with the help of Rural Development Department so that the loss of forest area due to firing range will be compensated.
Tosamaidan, which was used by the Army as an artillery firing range for several decades, was handed back to the state government in 2014. It is the largest pasture in its surrounding areas with 3 miles in length and 1.5 miles in width.
Tosamaidan is not only famous as a pasture but also for its historical background. Bounded by dense forests, it is situated about 10 kms from Khag in the Himalayan range. After crossing the upper mountain reaches of Drang, Zakhora and other small villages, one reaches the pasture of Tosamaidan. It is said that Tosamaidan is one of those pastures which the shepherds of other neighboring countries also used to visit in ancient times. The Mughals used to go to Poonch using this route.
Later, the Chief Minister also visited the tourist destinations of Yusmarg and Gulmarg to personally take stock of infrastructure and other facilities available for the tourists there.
At Gulmarg, the Chief Minister while reviewing the facilities for tourists stressed the need for ensuring cleanliness in and around the bowl and regulating various businesses to avoid congestion and inconvenience to the tourists. She also called for strictly enforcing the polythene ban in all the tourist resorts of the State.
Mehbooba also called for identifying a dedicated garbage dumping site in the area for regular disposal of garbage. She said for the scientific disposal of the garbage, a Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) will be installed in Gulmarg and other tourist resorts to ensure proper cleanliness of this world famous tourist resort.
The Chief Minister also interacted with large number of tourists in Gulmarg and enquired from them about the facilities available there. She also interacted with the students of various educational institutions who had come for day picnic to the ski resort. While praising the beauty of Kashmir, the tourists were also all praise for the hospitality of the locals. The Chief Minister asked the tourists to visit other tourist resorts in the State as well and urged them that once they return to their native places they should become JK's goodwill ambassadors there. MLA Gulmarg, Muhammad Abbas Wani, DC Baramulla, Yasha Mudgal, DIG Baramulla, SSP Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain, CEO Gulmarg Development Authority, Nazir Ahmad Mir and other senior officers of the district administration Baramulla and Tourism Department accompanied the Chief Minister.