Development of tourist resorts should factor in local economies: Mehbooba
SRINAGAR: Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said the focus of the development framework for tourist resorts in the state should be not only planned growth of these destinations but also creating economic opportunities for the local communities.
“Unfortunately, the tourism destinations in Jammu and Kashmir have pursued development strategies without proper planning and without considering the impact such lopsided development brings to the environment and the local communities,” the chief minister said while reviewing the progress of Master Plan-2032 for the tourist resort of Gulmarg.
Minister of state for tourism and education, Priya Sethi, MLA Tangmarg, Mohammad Abbas Wani and principal secretary to chief minister, Naveen Kumar Choudhary were present in the meeting.
The chief minister said the destination planning should not only revolve round land use and infrastructure planning but social and economic planning as well involving the socio-economic welfare of the local communities. She called for developing and promoting integrated tourist circuits with dedicated activities to bring up exclusive tourist destinations.
Mehbooba said being labour-intensive industry, tourism has the potential to be a major source of employment and income for diverse populations. “While skewed tourism development and practices can degrade habitats, destroy landscapes, deplete natural resources and generate waste and pollution, in contrast responsible tourism development can support conservation and local culture and create immense economic opportunities for the local communities and the state as a whole,” she said.
Mehbooba said the focus of the Tourism Master Plan for Gulmarg should be upgradation of this scenic destination using sustainable development principles and retrieving the past glory of this world-famous resort. “It should at the same time address the issues of ecological conservation, economic growth, sanitation and local participation,” she said, adding that the areas of immediate concern include decongestion of the bowl, effective garbage disposal, regulation of pony trade, dog menace and coping up with infrastructure deficiencies.
She also called for creating an effective mechanism for sale of Gandola tickets to prevent unscrupulous elements from fleecing the tourists.
Earlier, briefing the meeting about the salient features of Gulmarg Master Plan, secretary tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah said that the first master plan for Gulmarg was drafted in 1972 and it was implemented in 1975. He said in 2012, the High Court ordered formulation of a new master plan for the tourist resort and the same was placed before the state cabinet in April 2015 for approval.
He said that the focus of the new master plan is to build the requisite infrastructure in Gulmarg keeping in view its fragile eco-system. He said the immediate concern is to increase the bed capacity at Gulmarg which is presently just around 2000 against the requirement of 6000 beds. He said the Government has identified 550 kanals of state land at the tourist resort to build new infrastructure.