Linking high-end tourism with top class education, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today promised to develop Pahalgam valley as a leisure-cum-education centre on the pattern of Dalhousie, in Himachal Pradesh.
He said Pahalgam will be developed as an all-season destination after its Master Plan is approved by the State Cabinet.
The Chief Minister said this while chairing a high-level meeting called today to review the Draft Master Plan for Pahalgam.
Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, Commissioner / Secretary, Tourism & Culture, Shailendra Kumar, Director Tourism, Kashmir & MD JKTDC, Farooq Ahmad Shah, Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Bashir Khan, Chief Town Planner (CTP), Iftikhar Hakim, Special Secretary, Tourism, Mohammad Hussain Mir and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA), Riyaz Ahmad Wani, attended the meeting.
Referring to a few established quality schools and institutes that have come up in and around Pahalgam, the Chief Minister called for developing a cluster of mainstream and adventure institutes in the resort to increase its USP. “Pahalgam has huge potential to come up as a high-class tourist and educational centre on the pattern of Dalhousie,” he added.
On the issue of making Pahalgam an all-season destination, the Chief Minister stressed on taking up add-on activities like skiing, ropeway from Mammal to Bysaran, mountain biking in Aru and joyrides for children in Pahalgam Amusement Park. “The tourists will be attracted to Pahalgam if we offer them wholesome entertainment,” he said, directing the department to devise a plan to attract visitors to other tourist spots like Aru and Betaab Valley in winter months.
The Chief Minister issued directions for underground electric cabling and ensuring uninterrupted power supply to the Pahalgam resort so that the visitors don’t face any hassles during their stay. He said he will visit the resort to identify and assess the feasibility of various tourism infrastructure development projects conceived in the Draft Master Plan.
Emphasizing upon scientific disposal of solid waste to keep the resort clean, the Chief Minister directed the CEO PDA to identify a suitable chunk of land for the purpose. He was informed by Commissioner / Secretary Tourism that a proposal in this regard has been sent for approval to the Union Ministry of Environment & Forest.
Mufti Sayeed also directed the Tourism Department to undertake awareness campaigns about ecological conservation so that we are able to save our treasures of nature for posterity. “The PDA will ensure picking up of discarded bottles and tins littered around Pahalgam bowl to ensure its cleanliness, an activity which shall be outsourced by the PDA,” he said, while asking the CEO to strictly implement the ban on use of polythene.
To maintain the pristine beauty of the place, the Chief Minister directed PDA to ensure that no illegal structures come up in the area that put the fragile environment to grave risk. He said future development of Pahalgam and its notified area will be done only after the revised Master Plan is approved by the Cabinet.
Describing parking of vehicles as a major bottleneck to resort sightseeing, the Chief Minister directed the CTP to keep provision in the Master Plan for parking place at a location outside the bowl precincts. “This will de-congest the bowl to a large extent. The Tourism Department must also keep provision in Master Plan for construction of a subway near Amusement Park, where multi-purpose tickets for sightseeing will be issued to facilitate the tourists,” he disclosed.
Stating that all roads in and leading to Pahalgam resort will be maintained by Public Works Department, the Chief Minister asked the Commissioner / Secretary Tourism to explore formulation of a Citizens’ Committee of principal stakeholders, comprising hoteliers and local representatives, so that they are taken on-board in promotion of Pahalgam as a high-class tourist destination.
Asking Tourism Department to promote absolutely stunning locations in Pahalgam valley like Aru, Yanner, Batkoot and Veersaran, Mufti Sayeed asked the department to diversify its add-on activities so that tourists become inquisitive about the new nature spots. He also asked the Tourism Department to revive expeditions to known places like Kolahoi Glacier.
Commissioner / Secretary, Tourism & Culture, informed the Chief Minister that nearly 45 illegal structures have been demolished in and around Pahalgam. He also briefed the Chief Minister about the need to modify PDA’s institutional structure by creating posts of Urban Designer / Landscape Architect and Town Planner.
It was given out in the meeting that a detailed plan for promotion of Betaab Valley as an independent tourist destination will be conceived by the Pahalgam Development Authority. The Authority will also draw up a plan for pony registration.
CTP, while briefing the Chief Minister, described the Draft Master Plan of Pahalgam resort as environmentally-sustainable. He said it has been prepared on the basis of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and the recommendations of the Expert Committee constituted by the J&K High Court, which issued directions to revisit the Pahalgam Master Plan 2005-25.
In his power-point presentation, the CTP highlighted major proposals of Master Plan including sanitation, solid waste management, urban design, facade improvement, traffic management and transportation. He informed the Chief Minister that the revised Master Plan will increase the intake capacity of tourists at Pahalgam from present 7,000 to 10,000.