People have firm hope that the present LG administration would seriously look into all aspects related to Yousmarg and on merit

Yousmarg is located in central Kashmir’s Bugdam district. There are meadows of natural greenery, and the place is known for its long stretches of green pastures, rich in medicinal flora and fauna, and an ideal tourist attraction that in its humblest of ways teaches to admire nature. Yousmarg is the perfect gateway for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. There is no shortage of attraction.
Yousmarg in Kashmiri means the ‘Meadow of Jesus’. It is said to have been visited by Jesus and hence named after him. It is an alpine valley covered with snow-clad mountains and more plant communities dominated by herbaceous species, water and shallow groundwater, and woody vegetation like trees or shrubs are common but not dominant. Meadows of pine and evergreen coniferous trees with upright cones and flat needle-shaped leaves, typically arranged in two rows called Firs, and are an important source of timber for the area and beyond.
It is a popular tourist destination, nestled within the imposing Pir Panjal peaks, a sub-range of the Himalayan Mountains. That is the Yousmarg for you – a place where you can just sit for hours in peace, and walk around on the lush green and captivating meadows. The scenic beauty, peace and tranquillity of the place are absolutely stunning and it deserves to be on the list for everyone’s visit. It is one of those places in Kashmir that are immensely beautiful, breezing of fresh air hub, for someone wanting to go offbeat and stay away from the crowd, Yousmarg is the perfect destination.
In 1973, the Bollywood film Bobby was shot at Yousmarg, but unfortunately, the place does not get the attention it rightfully deserves.
The best tourist attractive and magnetic sites of Yousmarg are the foaming river Dudhganga, the alpine lake Nilnag, Sang-e-Safed Valley, the water reservoir (dam) and the divine shrines of Charar-e-Sharief and Pakherpora.
Sang-e-Safed or White Rocks as it is referred to is located at a distance of about 10 km from the Yousmarg Valley, This is an oval-shaped meadow and divided the Doodhganga tributary.
Nilnag is 5 to 6 km away from Yousmarg and offers a great opportunity for trekking adventure lovers. The trek goes through a picturesque pine forest through which run many streams of water. It is a beautiful yet steep uphill trek to Nilnag Lake with the dense pine forest being one of the top places to visit. The blue water of this sparkling lake and the picturesque surroundings of towering pine trees and snow-capped mountains make this place a must-visit.
Doodhganga is frothing and crashing on its way over the rocks. The river makes a little white foam. Doodhganga is a gorgeous river known for its water that appears milky in colour, hence named Doodhganga. The river is rich in the population of trout fish, thus considered one of the best angling and fishing destinations in Budgam.
It is a beautiful spot right before the parking spot, an artificial water reservoir. For this, you do not really need to trek anywhere as it is located right by the road. It is actually called a dam, constructed in the 1980s. Most of the people visiting Yusmarg sit next to this dam, especially the locals all the time. It is surrounded by pine trees and is also a fishing spot in case you want to go fishing.
This Yousmarg, however, has been ignored by the successive governments of Jammu & Kashmir. Let’s do a factual discussion about it. The roads connecting the Yousmarg with the rest of the valley areas are Srinagar to Yousmarg via Charar-i-Sharief, Srinagar to Yousmarg via Pakherpora through NH44 and Shopain to Yousmarg via Pakherpora. All are not in good condition. Roads are sudden, sharp, blind curves, corners, poorly-lit roads, and overly crowded and inefficient merges that cause bottlenecks. There are ineffective drainage systems and poorly maintained except Srinagar to Charar-i-Sharief road.
For the successful attraction of the tourist resort, a well-designed widened road system is necessary which improves the overall value of the tourist resort, improves tourist flow, decreases wear and tear on equipment and makes the journey safer. The most difficult thing being faced by tourists is internal road connectivity which is almost nil. There is neither road connectivity from Yousmarg to Sang-e-Safed Valley, Nilnag, and Doodhganga nor a footpath from Yousmarg to either place. Tourists have to walk on traditional ‘piadal’ paths to reach these destinations. There is no modern public toilet facility available, no washrooms and no urine closets when such facilities are very important in respective of health and environmental risk. No proper parking facility is available here. Well-designed and eco-friendly parking with upgradation of existing facilities is the need of the hour.
Existing infrastructure needs further maintenance and upgradation cum modernization to attract more footfall of tourists and to meet their basic needs. Yousmarg has a vast potential to promote water and winter sports but the government didn’t organize any event or festival at Yousmarg like that of Doodpathri, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, etc. In the 21st century which is also called the digital century, the most irritating thing for tourists is the lack of mobile connectivity, internet, ATM services and emergency medical aid at famous tourist places. Yousmarg lacks all these. No cellular company has installed towers to date. These are the reasons why people prefer to visit Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Doodpathri, Kokernag, Sonamarg, etc.
To address these grievances and to envisage plans to promote tourism and to make availability of related facilities in a structured way and their implementation, the then government of Jammu & Kashmir established Yousmarg Development Authority vide order no: 262-TSM of 2005 dated 27-12-2005. But unfortunately, the development authority remained headless for many years which badly affected its functioning and aim.
Creating Yousmarg Development Authority proved a futile exercise because opportunities for local peoples were restricted despite a large number of tourists visiting the divine shrines throughout the year. The authority couldn’t capitalize on this situation smartly, nor is any such framework active right now. No such plan is on cards from the tourism department.
To heal the damage and start a new era of tourism, the then Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Baseer Ahmad Khan conducted an extensive visit to Yousmarg on in February 2021. The local people of all adjacent areas had set down the demands and grievances including the installation of mobile connectivity towers at Yousmarg, ATM services, facilities for garbage and waste disposal, improvement of public utilities, exploration of new tourist destinations, and road connectivity. The Advisor assured and guaranteed that these demands and grievances would be looked into seriously and solved in the next fifteen days, especially mobile connectivity and ATM services, but both local people and tourists haven’t realized any change on the ground which is really unfortunate, so grievances and demands were not addressed.
Development of Yousmarg means exploring avenues of employment, business, financial freedom, revenue generation, an opportunity to study nature and ecosystem, and maintaining of tourism industry at a particular location as we know tourism development and promotion are coordinated by public sector bodies, such as tourist boards, NGOs and local councils. Let the government start from anywhere so that a new era of development starts at this place. People have firm hope that the present LG administration would seriously look into all aspects related to Yousmarg and on merit.

Author is working in the Department of Education

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