For the story on this topic from previous years and the issues involved, see here.
Rafting started in Pahalgam from April 1 onwards. There are 12 companies or agencies providing the service – so the visits should see some healthy competition working in their favor.
For the ride in the meandering waters, the starting point is Yaner, some 5 kilometers before Pahalgam. There is unfortunately no structures set up so far and people have to arrange their own means of getting to Yaner. Which could be a great opportunity for Sumo or taxi operators. Or may be slowly the rafting companies would start providing this service to take back to and fro from the rafting site.
The president of Rafting Owners Association is Muhammad Ibrahim.
From a news item appearing in Greater Kashmir, it looks like the amusement park may be shifted from Pahalgam. While there could be a long list of reasons that why the park needs to there, to why it was put in the first place, most “amusing” are the reasons being cited for moving the park. Dyes flowing from the amusement park into Lidder?? Give me a break – its a park, not a pigment and dye chemicals factory!
Yes its an eye sore, yes its artificial; no, its now very much a part of Pahalgam and a good way of spending a day. It provides a means of entertainment to people who come in looking for an activity to do, who need an agenda beyond local sight seeing.
The news items below from Mr. Khalid Gul aptly covers people’s view on the topic.
It might as well be left there, now that it is there….
GK – Pahalgam, Apr 17, 2010: The government is understood to have given its green signal to the proposal of shifting the amusement park at Pahalgam to some other location which will cost more than Rs 5 crore.
The amusement park was established by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank at a cost of Rs 3 crores on 48 kanal land in the midst of dense pine forests. The park generates an income of Rs 60 lakh per annum. Now, shifting of the park to other location would cost the JK Bank some Rs 5 crore, sources said.
They said that the proposal has been approved by the Chief Minister and the amusement park would be shifted to the outskirts of the tourist resort, most probably to nearby Yaner, or Aishmuqam, 17 kilometres from Pahalgam.
Initially, establishment of the amusement park in 2003 had attracted criticism from environmentalists who were of the view that a pristine mountain resort had been spoiled.
One of the biggest concerns of ecological activists was that the dyes from an artificial stream that run into the amusement park’s pool were emptying into Lidder River. Besides, they were of the view that the park was not blending with the scenic beauty of this resort and would definitely pollute this place.
“People come here to enjoy natural beauty and not to get distracted by man-made machines. I don’t know from where the idea to set up this park came,” said an environmentalist, who claimed that even the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) was not consulted on the project.
Now the government’s plan of shifting the park is seen as a welcome move. They even suggested some urban area like Islamabad town as the new destination.
Environmentalist Dr Mubashir Jeelani said, “I am not aware about the pouring of dyes into the Lidder River and its quantity. If the quantity is low then due to its dilution effect it would not have any effect but if the quantity is large then the carcinogenic elements present in them would definitely destroy the flora and fauna and also render the water unfit for drinking.”
He suggested collecting these dyes in drums and scientific disposal of other waste products.
Pertinently, the State Pollution Control Board had then directed the government to set an effluent treatment plant in the park to deal with the waste products and also called for more trees to be planted to make the park blend better with the surroundings. Though trees were planted but the effluent treatment plant was never set up.
“I will be soon seeking the status report of the amusement park and see if they are following all the guidelines,” said S Farooq Gillani, Regional Director, Kashmir, State Pollution Control Board.
Despite environmentalists’ concerns, the project has been embraced by common Kashmiris longing for some entertainment. The locals also welcomed the move but now the proposal of shifting the park has let them down and they term it as politically motivated rather than an attempt to save Pahalgam.
“If they are so concerned about the beauty of Pahalgam then they should first stop the construction of illegal huts and hotels and also stop the pouring of waste into the Lidder by big hotels and restaurants,” said a local resident, Mushtaq Ahmad, adding that the step was aimed to benefit the cohorts of some local politicians.
“Aishmuqam and Yaner where the government is planning to shift the park are in no way urban areas. Lidder River passes from these two places too and would disturb the environs there too,” he said, adding that the J&K Bank had planted many trees around the area and is taking care of the wastes scientifically.