Srinagar: A state government document has said that the unregulated growth of tourism industry has put severe pressure on the local environment.
The document, ‘State Action Plan on Climate Change’, prepared by the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing, has pointed out the flow of tourists beyond the carrying capacity of locations has “put tremendous pressure on the existing resources and infrastructure”.
Vehicles carrying tourists to these areas and hotels and other facilities contribute to climate change through emission of harmful green house gases, the document said.
Conversely, the Action Plan warns that the projected climate changes in the state would affect the tourism industry “through infrastructure damage, pressure created by preparedness needed to handle additional emergencies, higher operational expenses and business interruptions”.
Much premium has been placed by successive governments on tourism as “the backbone of Kashmir economy”. In fact, the previous government spent a lot of money last year on promotional events and activities to woo tourists.
Director tourism Mahmood Ahmad Shah told Kashmir Reader that Gulmarg has a carrying capacity of 3,500 people each day, while Pahalgam can accommodate 5,000 people.
“We are yet to cross the 15 lakh mark. Himachal Pradesh receives above 2 crore tourists each year but their environment hasn’t been damaged,” said Shah, while stating he is yet to receive a copy of the Action Pan.
He said the tourism department was “not on board” when Action Plan was being drafted.
Last year, the government claimed, an estimated 10 lakh tourists visited the state.
According to the Action Plan, the government should undertake a study on carrying capacity of tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir and making tour operators aware about climate change.
It also calls for preparing Environment Management Plans (EMPs) for 10 tourist destinations on priority basis.
Environment and Remote Sensing Department’s Action Plan suggests
Ascertaining carrying capacity of tourist destinations
Drawing Energy Management Plans for 10 tourist destinations
Constructing bio-toilets and setting up solid and liquid waste management plants
Identify new eco-friendly tourist destinations
Constructing bio-toilets and solid and liquid waste management are other key priorities the Plan wants the government to focus on at six tourist destinations.
“Knowledge base of tour operators on climate change related issues should be improved and a study should be undertaken on tourist-related transport emissions,” it said.
The restoration of Dal Lake is also one among the priorities in the tourism sector. It has also insisted that a study should be undertaken for identification of new environmental friendly tourist destinations.
An official at ecology environment and remote sensing said the Action Plan, which was prepared in 2014, is a long-term research document for improving the overall environmental issues.
“These key priorities have been highlighted so that it receives timely attention. Each and every segment of the report was complied with substantiated evidence,” the officer told Kashmir Reader.
The officer said they have put tourism industry as the priority sector because of the regions potential and government’s focus on it.
“And we are expecting a trance of funds from the government of India’s climate change program for key sectors,” the official said.