SRINAGAR: Kashmir University’s senior geologist, Prof Shakil Ahmad Ramshoo, has warned that if ‘mass tourism’ to Sonamarg is not stopped, the Thajiwas glacier will soon be a history.
Prof Ramshoo, who has conducted extensive research work on Kashmir’s glaciers, blames government for promoting environment-unfriendly construction around the ecological fragile Sonamarg area.
“Promoting mass tourism at the cost of ecology cannot be considered a good idea. This will directly have an impact on forests, water resources and the glaciers. And I am afraid, in the coming 5-10 years, the Thajiwas glacier, which is one of the major tourist attractions in the region, will be a history. It won’t sustain,” Ramshoo told Kashmir Reader.
He recommended implementation of strict environmental laws. “Protocol needs to be followed. The carrying capacity (tourist flow) of such areas should not only be determined but put to practice also. Besides, there should be a yearly review of such places. A kind of environment impact assessment should be carried out to keep the track of various things,” Ramshoo added.
Sonamarg is one of the major tourist destinations of Kashmir Valley, but the unabated commercialisation has become a concern. Not only geologists but locals and foreign tourists are against promoting ‘mass tourism’ for which massive construction is going on in the ecologically fragile area.
Aghast over the ongoing construction in Sonamarg, Shafaat Ahmed, a banker, said Sonamarg has turned into a ‘concrete jungle.’
“I don’t understand how authorities can allow this level of construction at a place like Sonamarg which is ecologically sensitive. I think it’s not only a transgression but a sin if we try to commercialise such a place,” said Ahmed.
A group of European tourists who are regular to Sonamarg for trekking told Kashmir Reader that the commercial activities were playing a spoilsport. “It used to be fun here. This place was very raw, closer to nature, closer to God. But since the construction began, this place lost its charm for us. It is highly polluted and noisy now,” said Christopher from Belgium.
Another tourist, Jayden from Netherlands, said, “There is a parking space near the glacier. Instead of hiring ponies, people are driving to that place, causing not only pollution but noise too. Where are the authorities, I wonder?”