Shopian: The people of DH Pora are quite enthusiastic this winter, unlike in the past when they would migrate to warmer places across the country, both to earn a little and to avoid the harsh climate in the region that routinely witnesses over 5 feet of snowfall in the winter months.
The enthusiasm is due to the new Tehsildar, who spends 28 days a month at his Tehsil office in DH Pora despite being a resident of Pulwama village, and who has after a year’s research, including field work and site identification, started a skiing programme at Panchanpathri, by taking help from his friend, Tariq Ahmad Mir, a qualified instructor in snow skiing.
Tehsildar Niyaz Ahmad Bhat is also meeting all the expenses from his own pocket, be it buying skii boards, transport facility to the expert instructor, and training to locals, all without taking help from the tourist department or any government agency.
Bhat told Kashmir Reader that last year he did a survey of three sites, Aharbal, Badibreng and Panchanpathri, all three remote areas in district Kulgam, and after expert advice, Panchanpathri was identified for snow skiing. “The site is the best for proper snow skiing. It has baby, medium, and big slopes, where people of all ages can take part in snow sports during the winters,” he said.
Bhat said that it took a lot of effort by him to get this novel idea on the ground, where 95 villages in the Tehsil are officially designated as backward villages. “It started when I spent the whole winter at the Tehsil headquarters, without visiting home once, so as to gain the confidence to tell people that the winters aren’t as harsh as we think. Many people here migrate to warmer places in India in the winter,” he said.
When heavy snowfall fell in the month of January, Bhat along with a few subordinates started trekking in the region, and in this he began to be followed by many of the locals.
“There was no means of sports or entertainment here, so seeing the start of snow skiing in the area made them enthusiastic. They came in droves to watch and take part in it,” Bhat said.
Panchanpathri is situated some 30 kilometers from district headquarters Kulgam and 85 kilometers from Srinagar.
Locals hailed this “great” move by their Tehsildar. “Our children do ‘traditional skiing’ here, using polythene sheets to ride upon slopes near their homes. This organised skiing will help them excel in this sport,” said Muhammad Akram, a local resident.
Bhat said that he is going to start classes for local children where he will bear the expenses on the instructor. “It will be a school-type institution where pupils will be imparted training and education in snow sports. As the area is prone to disasters, it also needs people who can do rescue and rehabilitation. This school will help us in that area as well,” he said.
Hundreds of locals from the area have visited the skiing site and are appreciating the efforts of the Tehsildar. Many of them also took part in snow skiing as well.
Bhat said that he will try to make it a skiing site for the whole south Kashmir, which will help local businesses, tourism, and provide exposure to the local youth who otherwise have very few means for outdoor entertainment and sports.
About a dozen skiing boards have already been bought by Bhat and he has plans to get more.