Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Heritage Tourism

Can heritage tourism do the trick in Kashmir?

One Heritage Zone would fetch Rs 200 Crores

Mehboob Jeelani (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: The setting up of one heritage zone in old-city can generate Rs 200 crore annually for Kashmir’s tourism industry, according to experts.

The tourism industry in Kashmir generates Rs 1000 Crore revenue annually according to an independent survey by an NGO and with the introduction of heritage tourism another Rs 200 crore are likely to be added to the current income. Besides heritage tourism is likely to prolong tourist stay in Kashmir.

“If one zone would be safeguarded in old city and transformed into a heritage zone, it has a potential to prolong a tourist’s stay by one day in Srinagar,” President Federation of Commerce and Industry Kashmir (FCIK) Shakeel Qalander said.

Qalander said that Zaina Kadal- MR Gunj-Jamia Masjid belt has an enormous potential to attract foreign and domestic tourists.

“All along on the banks of Jehlum there are still hundreds of traditional Kashmiri houses having essential heritage features. If government will preserve Zaina Kadal-MR Gunj-Jamia Masjid belt and declare it as heritage zone, it would not only add up to the revenue but also eradicate the unemployment to some extent in old-city,” he said.

An expert from J&K tourism department wishing anonymity said that an average stay of foreign tourist in Srinagar is between 2-3 days and domestic 5-7 days.

“A domestic tourist at an average spends Rs.964 per day and a foreigner Rs.1925. If both will increase their stay by one day in Srinagar, it will definitely help the local economy,” he said.

He said in many parts of the world the tourism industry had introduced souvenir tourism.

“Souvenir tourism means that a tourist is shown such kind of places which remind about the past of that particular country or state,” he added.

He said the best tourist destinations of world increase the tourist activities and excursion options which significantly improves the overall tourism product.

“In 2008, 10 lakh 71 thousand domestic tourists arrived in Kashmir out of which 4 lakh were Amarnath pilgrims and 22 thousand were foreigners,” he added.

Meanwhile, J&K chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritag (INTACH) has done mapping of Srinagar city by dividing it in four heritage zones.

However, Convener of INTACH Muhammad Saleem Beg said that due to the non-serious approach of the government the city had become fractured.

“This city has been declared endangered among the world’s hundred heritage cities,” Beg said.

Beg said unless the State Government would frame a proper policy for safe guarding the heritage of Srinagar city “the concept of heritage tourism is inappropriate”.

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