Tapping adventure tourism potential will improve J&K’s economy: CM



Flags off batch of 43 trekkers for Heritage Trek Expedition 
Chief Minister (CM) Mr. Omar Abdullah Tuesday said that adventure tourism has enormous potential in Jammu and Kashmir due to its varied topography, geographical and climatic conditions which needs major canvassing to transform the socio-economic conditions of people of the State.
The Chief Minister said this while flagging off a batch of 43 student trekkers of Samba and Udhampur districts from Boys PG College, under Heritage Trek Expedition, here this morning. The expedition is being organized by Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI), in collaboration with Directorates of Tourism and Education and District Administration.
The Chief Minister said events like trekking lead to inculcating self-confidence amongst youth and provide an opportunity of healthy outdoor activity with exposure to rich heritage of our State.
While flagging off trekkers, Mr. Abdullah became nostalgic and recalled that 22 years ago, a similar event was held at Gulmarg when he accompanied his father Dr. Farooq Abdullah, who inaugurated a trekking expedition. He expressed his pleasure to have inaugurated trekking expedition from Udhampur as Chief Minister.
Highlighting the importance of trekking expeditions, especially for youngsters, the Chief Minister said such events infuse fresh energy and unique experience amongst the youth, besides strengthening bonds of communal harmony and brotherhood which have a lasting effect on the minds of youth. He called upon the trekkers to carry social message and take care of environment cleanliness along the expedition routes.  
Appreciating the role of Youth Hostel Association of India for organizing the expedition, the Chief Minister called for organizing such events on a regular basis so that new vistas of tourism and heritage could be explored to attract more visitors in the State, which besides raising economy would also help in providing employment to local youth.
Expressing optimism about prevailing congenial atmosphere in the State, the Chief underlined the need of exploring and encouraging trekking in potential areas including Kashmir and devise measures to hold such expeditions of trekkers wherein trekkers from Kashmir should reach Jammu and vice-versa to create better understanding about the culture and heritage of our State.
Mr. Abdullah assured all possible help from the State government in carrying forward the activities of YHAI in the State. 
The Chief Minister also received “Nehru Youth Award” from National President, YHAI, Mr. M. S. Pandit on the occasion. 
Giving details of various activities being conducted by YHAI, Mr. Pandit said the Association has come of age as it has completed 100 years of its existence and its network is spread over 80 countries where young tourists could avail accommodation and other related facilities at reasonable rates.
He said the present expedition with its base camp at Udhampur would provide a change to the young adventurists to trek through some of the most scenic and beautiful places of Jammu region. He said the seven-day trek touches unique heritage sites, crystal-clear water springs, lofty mountains, thick deodar forests and green meadows. He said trekkers would also be imparted general knowledge about geography, archaeology, flora and fauna and environment of the area. The activities would also be extended to other parts of the State, Mr. Pandit added.
Deputy Commissioner, Udhampur, Mr. Ajay Khajuria, while speaking on the occasion, said the district has vast potential for carrying out tourism-related activities. He hoped that with the start of heritage trek expedition in the district for the second consecutive time, further boost to trekking would be given and trekkers from outside the State would reach here to participate in such expeditions.
State Chairman, YHAI, Satpal Verma, said about 39 km expedition in the district starting from Panchari to Mantali would cover beautiful natural site including Shankri Devta, Nathtop, Patnitop, Gourikund and Sudhmahadev areas.
MLA, Udhampur, Mr. Balwant Singh Mankotia, MLA, Chenani, Mr. K.C. Bhagat, IGP, SKPA, Mr. Navin Agarwal, DIG Udhampur-Reasi Range, Mr. Gulzar Singh Slathia, DIG BSF, senior officers of Army, Air Force, District Administration, Project Director, YHAI, K.K. Gandotra, prominent citizens and students were present on the occasion.

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