Friday, July 17, 2009

Answer to unemployment is in tourism development: Omar

‘Showcase God-gifted places of natural beauty, scenic splendour’

Laying stress on the upgradation of infrastructure at all the tourist resorts of the State, Chief Minister, Mr. Omar Abdullah Friday said that God has bestowed His blessings upon Jammu and Kashmir by granting unbeatable places of natural beauty and enchanting scenic splendour. “We have to properly showcase the chaste tourist places and upgrade the infrastructure to encourage large scale tourist inflow from all across the world throughout the year”, he added.

Mr. Abdullah was reviewing the activities and achievements registered by the Gulmarg and Wullar-Mansbal Development Authorities at a high level meeting here.

Mr. Omar asked the officers to endeavour for restoring the State’s position as choicest tourist destination and said that this is the sector where lies the answer to the problem of unemployment. He said Tourism Development Authorities have a pivotal role to play in this direction and make the sector vibrant and remunerative for the greater chunk of people directly and indirectly.

The Minister for Tourism, Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora, Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Ghulam Hassan Mir, Minister of State for Tourism, Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani, legislators, Mr. Nizam-ud-Din Bhat and Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Mr. Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, Secretary Tourism, Ms Tanveer Jahan, Director Tourism, Kashmir, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Shah, CEOs of the Gulmarg and Wullar-Mansbal Development Authorities, Managing Director, Cable Car Project and other senior officers were present in the meeting.

Mr. Abdullah said the slopes and snow in the Gulmarg have made it the world’s best skiing destination and asked the Gulmarg Development Authority to work in coordination with Cable Car Corporation in upgrading and improving Cable Car facilities in the area. He stressed on introducing more chair-car and chair-lifting facilities in Gulmarg especially for the skiers and adventure sports persons during the winter season.

The Chief Minister also asked the Authority to work out a plan for introducing snow-scooters in Gulmarg during the winter. “You could help the youth to procure snow-scooters by arranging easy loans for them from the J&K Bank and providing subsidy over it. They can hire the scooters to the riders in the winter and earn their livelihood”, he said and added that similar planning for initiating mountain biking can be introduced in Gulmarg and other feasible areas to generate economic activities for the youth.

Mr. Abdullah asked the Gulmarg Development Authority and Tourism Department to think over creating some good and befitting programmes for the tourists at Gulmarg in the evening. “Evening recreation like table tennis, badminton, other indoor sports, light and sound and appropriate cultural shows based on the culture and heritage of the State can be thought over along with open restaurants”, he said.

Chief Minister said that Wullar and Mansbal lakes provide unique tourism attraction and possess tremendous potential for the tourists from all over the world. He said while creation of infrastructure for the tourists is imperative for the purpose, the conservation and protection of these water bodies is all the more important.

Mr. Omar emphasized on phasing works according to the priority and ensuring their completion within shortest possible time. “It is not wiser to expand works programme and provide little money to each work. The better option would be to select most important works and make required funds available for these to complete within the prescribed timeframe”.

Speaking in the meeting Agriculture Minister, Mr. Ghulam Hassan Mir called for an integrated and comprehensive development programme for the Gulmarg, Tangmarg and Drung areas and asked the Gulmarg Development Authority to work in coordination with other agencies in carrying forward the works on faster track and completing these within the timeframe.

Mr. Mir said that he had launched the programme for the development of Drung to showcase this village for the tourists at one hand and on the other reduce the pressure on Gulmarg visited by lakhs of people both during the summer and winter months. He said Drung has been declared tourist village and the scheme of paying-guest accommodation development should be implemented here so that the people can develop infrastructure for the tourists in the area.

Minister for Tourism speaking in the meeting asked the executing agencies to formulate proposals for central funding under Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan-II (PMRP-II) to accelerate the pace on development works.

Mr. Jora called for coordinated approach by all the agencies involved in the development of tourism for the creation of tourist infrastructure and showcasing the new areas for global tourism.

The meeting was informed that for the revival of tourism in Gulmarg, resources are being arranged from the State Plan, Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan (PMRP) and Finance Commission Awards.

The meeting was told that the Golf Course at Gulmarg is being developed and upgraded at a cost of Rs. 4.10 crore for which Rs. 2 crore is central assistance. Similarly, Kungdoori is being developed at a cost of Rs. 4.35 crore and Rs. 4.47 crore have been allocated for the procurement of equipments for snow clearance and snow grooming and Botapathri area is being developed as a camping site at a cost of Rs. 2 crore.

It was also said in the meeting that upgradation of ice-skating ring at a cost of Rs. 3.3 crore is in progress at Gulmarg and an amount of Rs. 2.30 crore is being spent for the development of Drung as tourist village.

The meeting was told that construction of Wullar Vantage Park at Garoora, Bandipora at a cost of Rs. 131 lakhs has been almost completed while as Rs. 16.50 lakh Gulshan Park at Bandipora, Rs. 23 lakh restoration of ancient temple at Mansbal, Rs.. 15 lakh Mansbal Parking Area, Rs. 105 lakh picnic spots, civic facilities, Rs. 49 lakh Mansbal tourist resort circular road and Rs. 275 lakhs pedestrian walk way around Mansbal lake have been completed fully.

The Wullar-Mansbal Development Authority has also conserved and maintained 30 springs the water of which runs into the Mansbal lake.

The Chief Executive Officers, Gulmarg Development Authority and Wullar-Mansbal Development Authority presented PowerPoint presentations in the meeting explaining all aspects of the programmes in hand and in the pipeline for the development of these tourist areas.