TOURIST SPOTS ON VERGE OF EXTINCTION
Verinag: Many tourist spots in this area are facing extinction threat due to the lackadaisical approach of the government. The largest fresh water springs- ‘Vitasta’ the chief source of river Jehlum, 30 km from Anantnag town, here in south Kashmir was once a major tourist attraction but off late the government apathy has marred its serene beauty as encroachments are galore and pollution of water bodies continues unabated.
“The sewage and drainage emanating from the toilets, kitchens and bathrooms of the house-hold flows directly into the river Jehlum right from the water-fall thus polluting it,” said the residents adding that the municipal authorities also dump the solid waste on its banks.
They said that the encroachments have come up on both sides of the river at many places including on the Trout Nallah in Kanilpora, Choontipora, Baghwanpura, Malikpora and Shaksaz Mohalla with authorities acting as mute spectators.
They said that if the trend continues the day is not far away when all the water tributaries of Verinag will get blocked and get reduced to mere cesspools.
“Though there is development authority existing on papers but it has hardly made a difference. They have put the boundaries around the already encroached river tributaries thus shrinking these further, disturbing the natural habitat of the aquatic fish and also destroying the natural heritage,” said Shafiq Ahmad. He suggested that the historical Mughal Sarai at Omaha should have been under the observation of Verinag Development Authority (VDA) as it once used to be a major tourist attraction. He said that scenic spots like Sarabal, known for fresh water springs and Gagan Maidan if provided proper infrastructure can be a major attraction for tourists while Brari glacier located 30 kms from Verinag on the higher reaches can be ideal winter sport tourist destinations.
“There is no proper infrastructure at place near the historical tourist Dak bungalow where the former Prime Ministers including Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi used to put up. The Dak bungalow was gutted in nineties and since then it has not been repaired,” said another resident, Farooq Ahmad. He said the lack of accommodation and other infrastructure facilities forces tourists to remain away from this scenic spot.
“The tourism department and Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) should set up good huts, hotels and restaurants to bring this place back on the tourist map,” said Farooq. He, however, added that the focus should be on developing the place as the eco-tourism tourist destination. Famous Botanical garden in the area is in a pathetic condition. “There is no urinal facility available for the general public,” they said.
This tourist resort, also called the golden corridor is connected to the Link road via Lower- Munda on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway and the locals opine that the government should have ensured that the tourists visit Verinag before they proceed to other tourist destinations like Pahalgam and Gulmarg. “The condition of Islamabad-Verinag-Kapran via Omaha is pathetic. If macadamized it would further reduce the distance to Verinag from the Highway by 10 kms and tourists would also love to enjoy the sparkling beauty of the region,” said the locals. (Greater Kashmir)