SRINAGAR: Cancellation of trips by the tourists who were scheduled to visit Kashmir Valley in spring has the traders’ apex body convinced that “depleted” drainage system is a threat to tourism in the region.
According to Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI)—a representative amalgam of business associations in Kashmir—inundation of Lal Chowk caused by the drainage system scared away the visitors.
“The flood-like situation emerged because of defunct drainage network in the city. It caused water logging in commercial hub, sending a negative signal outside, and leading to cancellation of tourist bookings,” President KCCI, Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, said in a press conference here.
The government, he said, must come up with a solution to prevent tourism sector from damages in future.
The incessant rains in the last two weeks resulted in a fresh flood in Kashmir. While only low lying areas were directly affected by rise in the water level of Jhelum and its flood-spill channel, failed drainage system inundated Lal Chowk—the commercial hub of this summer capital of the state.
The flood-like situation, coupled with the threat of another high-magnitude flood, forced the businessmen in Lal Chowk and its adjoining markets to empty their shops.
The markets remained closed for several days, and are only cautiously returning to normalcy.
“We appeal the government to take effective measures for strengthening of Jhelum’s embankments, which got damaged in last year’s flood,” KCCI President said, appreciating the PDP-BJP coalition’s “positive” response to the situation.
“Every minister was on road in the backdrop of the flood threat. The government’s response was quite positive and gave us assurance. But we appeal media to play its role in promoting Brand Kashmir,” he said.
Replying to a query, he said the Chamber is yet to assess the losses suffered by the business community due to the recent flood threat.
“The recent floods have not only affected travel and tour operators but also the hotels, guesthouses, houseboats, transport and ponnywallas and other stakeholders associated with tourism,” he said.
Ashiq said the Chamber would take up repairing of Jammu-Srinagar highway with the Chief Minister, “to ensure round the year connectivity”.
“We will also push for reduction in the airfare,” he added.
The Valley’s economy is already reeling under the aftermaths of the devastating September floods, with most traders still awaiting the relief and rehabilitation package promised by the new state government.
“We expect the government to announce the last year’s flood package in the first week of April,” Ashiq said.