ANANTNAG: Chinni Wudar, known popularly as apple road among the tourists visiting Pahalgam, is lined up by apple and willow trees on both sides, and tourists could be seen entering the apple orchards and taking rest under the trees. However, the road stretch is fast losing its charm to unabated constructions on its both sides.
Dozens of restaurants, stalls and shawl emporiums are being set up on the fertile horticulture land along the 6 km stretch of the road between Kanelwon to Srigufwara.
The orchard owners could be seen cutting down the trees these days, much to the chagrin of many nature lovers. “It is the charm of apple trees that attracts tourists to take this route to Pahalgam. But it is sad that people are devastating the place by raising monster-like buildings,” Gulzar Ahmed, a local youth, told Kashmir Reader.
Echoing similar concerns, a local fruit grower, Meraj-ud-Din, said, “If this conversion of orchards into commercial structures continues at the same pace, it will soon cease to be an apple road.”
He said that on one hand authorities are mulling over launching horticulture tourism, but on the other hand they are turning a blind eye on how the horticulture industry is being ruined.
“Tourism is okay, but we cannot afford to lose fruit industry. Government should take a serious note of it and immediately come up with measures to stop the land conversion,” Din said.
Experts also expressed concern over the conversion of fertile horticulture land into commercial structures. “It takes at least a decade for a tree to produce the fruit, but here we see decades-old apple trees having the capacity to produce 30 to 40 apple boxes being cut down. The trend will also prove disastrous to the environs of the area,” a horticulture expert, Arif Ahmad Shah, told Kashmir Reader.
Chief Horticulture Officer, Anantnag, M Y Dar said, “It is a major concern for us that the horticulture industry is being ruined for tourism. But there are many agencies like Revenue department which have to come forward to save the fruit industry. We are not the only stakeholders.”
Dar said that horticulture is backbone of Kashmir’s economy and it should be allowed to flourish.
“Government should take immediate steps to save the famous fruit producing karewa (apple road) from destruction,” he added.