SRINAGAR: Four months before his death, the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had directed the forest department to form eco-tourism policy and start on pilot basis eight projects on eco-tourism mode across the Jammu and Kashmir. Two years have passed neither the policy nor the projects have come up, courtesy official apathy.
A top official serving in the forest department told Kashmir Reader the policy is yet to take off as the planning department did not release funds for the pilot projects on time.
“The forest department has sought views from various stakeholders about the policy which is yet to come. A detailed project report of eight destinations has been submitted three years ago but funds were not released. Even after two years, we have received a token amount, which was utilised for basic work,” he added.
The officer said that the destinations identified were Bangus Valley, Bojpathri, Tosamaidan, Daksum, Pahalgam, Warwan, Sukrala and Machedi (Billawar). They were supposed to have facilitated travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people, use indigenous, locally produced end ecologically sustainable material for tourism activities, provide livelihood opportunities to local communities, facilitate the sustainability of ecotourism enterprise and activities and highlight the heritage value of wilderness and protected areas, he added.
Mohammad Afzal Bhat, secretary forests, told Kashmir Reader that the policy was in the final stage before it would be submitted to the cabinet.
“We are waiting for comments from stakeholders. Once we get them, we will call a meeting finalise it and submit the draft before the cabinet for approval,” Bhat said.
Environmental experts believe that tourism development in absence of the policy will be a disaster to the fragile economy of the state. Professor Shakil Ramshoo, head department of earth sciences at Kashmir University told Kashmir Reader that eve as tourism is one of the mainstays of the Kashmir economy, the fact is that the government allows development in the sector without any proper policy in place. “If we take example of existing tourist spots like Gulmarg and Sonamarg, the environment has been plundered. Development is important but it must go on in an environment friendly way. The policy should come as soon as possible because it will guide the future development and halt the already plundered environment,” he said.