SRINAGAR: While on the one hand the J&K government wants more and more tourists to come to Kashmir, on the other hand the Draft Master Plan-2035 prepared by the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) has advised that the focus should be on “quality of tourism rather than quantity, because the latter will jeopardise the fragile ecology (of Kashmir).”
The draft says that though Srinagar’s tourism potential is yet to be fully exploited, but its development has to be on the basis of environmental, economic and social benefit.
“Srinagar is a museum of natural and cultural heritage, possessing the vast diversity of both. It is home to lakes, rivers, wetlands, hills, forests, wildlife and is a place with pleasant weather. The architectural repertoire of Srinagar presents the rich diversity and is a live theatre of the legacy of its past rulers and citizens,” reads the draft. “However, these resources need to be tapped without externalities to the environment. Every tourism-related development should be framed on the basis of three principles; environmental benefits, economic benefits and social benefits.”
The draft says that the city in the past 40 years has grown in unsystematic manner. According to the draft, the master plans of 1971-91 and 2000-21 failed to develop Srinagar in the right direction. The new master plan has attributed their failure to the archaic institutional structure of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and the Srinagar Development Authority. These two urban bodies were tasked with the implementation of master plans.
The draft of the new master plan estimates that the inflow of tourists by 2035 will increase by seven million. It says an average of 28,000 tourists will be staying per day in Srinagar by the year 2035, compared to the current average of 10,309.
“Amid this huge scope for development, and with the history of unsystematic development, there seems no chance of development taking place in an environment-friendly way. Most of the existing hotels are already damaging the environment. Why would this stop in the future?” said an official who has worked on the draft.
“A few years ago there was a controversy over the construction of a restaurant at Dalgate. The then chief minister intervened to block further construction of the restaurant. What happened later? The restaurant is functioning in a pleasant manner today,” said the official.