BUDGAM: More than a year after Tosamaidan, a vast stretch of lush green meadows, was vacated by the Army, the promises of the state government to develop it as a befitting tourist destination have not been fulfilled.
The area was used as firing range by the Army since 1965 and was a major bone of contention between the local residents and the Indian Army. Dozens of fatal casualties including loss of human life occurred due to bursting of unexploded shells scattered in the firing range.
The area was vacated after a sustained campaign by local residents and the Indian Army projected it as a major Confidence building Measure. The state government announced to develop the area as a tourist destination.
However, the first step towards developing the area as a tourist destination is yet to be taken. The Tosamaidan sans road connectivity and no initiative has been taken to develop a road to connect the area.
Locals said that after the firing range was vacated from the area, the tourist inflow recorded a significant surge. “The tourists used to trek to the area initially but now they want a motorable road to access the area. This has resulted into dwindling number of footfalls”, Farooq Khan, a tea-seller who hails from Drang village told Kashmir Reader.
Locals say that Tosamaidan has the potential to challenge any topmost tourist destination in Kashmir owing to its breathtaking beauty, lush green meadows, flora and fauna and serene atmosphere.
Villages adjoining to Tosamaidan including Drung Sutharan, Shalkin, Dum Dum, Peer Gali, Hapahas, Kadlibal, Cheena Gali, Bandar Sar, Ghada Taar and Doorin have pinned hopes on tourism development and urge the authorities to develop road connectivity within shortest span of time.
Currently, tourists can take travel up to Khag and Setharan villages in their vehicles but beyond that they have to trek the distance or ride ponies to reach Tosamaidan.
“Many tourists do not like pony rides or trekking. Therefore, they are reluctant to approach the area despite having great desire”, said Sutaharan inhabitant, Ghulam Mohammad Wani.
Bashir Ahmad Sofi, a resident of Khag village accused the government of being biased towards the development of the area. “If the government can develop other tourist destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Yousmarg, why Tosamaidan is being left out”, he asked.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) Budgam Mir Altaf Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that district administration has already taken up the matter with the government. Tourism department has sought clearance from Forest department. Once the approval comes, the road construction process will be initiated”, he said.