Srinagar, June 2: Jammu and Kashmir Government informed lower house of J&K legislature on Thursday – 8th day of current 2016-17 Budget Session – that 65 sq km of Tosmaidan is “completely demined”.
Tosmaidan was last Sunday officially opened as new Tourist destination by CM Ms Mehbooba Mufti.
Responding to concerns raised by former CM and Beerwah Lawmaker, Omar Abdullah, with regard to live/remains of arms and shells in the area, the government assured the house that the area is “safe and secure”.
A vast meadow in central Kashmir’s Budgam district bordering Poonch and Rajouri, Tosmaidan was used by Indian Army for drills and shelling to train its personnel since 1962. The J&K Government had leased the tourist rich and environmentally fragile area to army which ended in 2014.
The local and people from adjoining areas have faced lethal problems. The littered shells in the area have resulted in loss of lives as well grave injuries to the civilians.
“As confessed by CM Ms Mehbooba Mufti herself at Tosmaidan last Sunday that complete demining has not been done,” Leader of Opposition Omar Abdullah said addressing Speaker, Kavinder Gupta, “then why has government opened the area for tourists?”
Omar asked government to assure the house that the area is “safe and secure” for humans. “What for have your government started adventure tourism festival when lives are not safe,” he asked the treasury benches.
Responding to concerns raised by National Conference working president, PDP-BJP Government spokesperson, Naeem Akhtar, said, “army has told our government that 65 sq km of Tosmaidan is completely demined so it is safe for any activity.”
“We are conscious about this and it is only after ascertaining that the area is safe and secure, our government has opened it for tourists,” Naeem Akhtar informed the house. He added that adventure tourism players have been engaged and such sports have been started in Tosmaidan.
Observing that Tosmaidan has no infrastructure in place “that it could be declared” as a tourist spot, the Beerwah lawmaker asked the government whether it has any plans to develop the area. “Not on routine basis,” Omar told the treasury benches, “is there any special plan/package that you will develop Tosmaidan?”
The government responded that under PM’s Rs 80000 crore economic package, Rs 73 Cr has been earmarked for development of Yusmarg-Doodpathri and Tosmaidan.
Maintaining that Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam tourist destinations have been turned into “concrete jungles”, Omar sought assurance from PDP-BJP government that same is not done in Tosmaidan. “We have seen how 40 rooms (hotels at tourist resorts) were constructed when permission was granted for only ten rooms,” Omar told the house. Omar led NC-Congress coalition government since 2009 up to 2014.
Omar further asked whether government had any plans to engage any expert, of international repute, who would give plan to develop Tosmaidan.
Asserting that PDP-BJP Government “won’t allow Tosmaidan to turn into concrete jungle”, Naeem Akhtar told the house that his government is resolved to develop Tosmaidan as “bio-sphere”. “Tosmaidan will be a prime eco-tourism spot in J&K,” Naeem said in his response to former CM.
“Let me assure this august house,” Naeem said, “there is a thumb role that no concrete structure will be allowed in Tosmaidan.”
He added that government will be engaging services of “best expert” who will design the plan for developing Tosmaidan.
This time, Naeem said, we are focusing on “interior development”. “Kothas are being developed so that Kothawalas are able to host tourists for the nights,” he said, “economy of real stake holders will be given boost.”
On the demand that Khag-Shunglipora-Tosmaidan be developed, Naeem said that a policy is already in place to develop roads leading to tourist places in J&K. “That won’t be done in isolation,” Naeem said, “it is for certain that road leading to Tosmaidan will be upgraded so that tourists won’t face any problem.”