Mehraj and Yusuf argue that linking Poonch to Gulmarg by road over Pirpanjal range would be yet another environmental and wildlife disaster in Kashmir
(Mr. Mehraj Din, 56, was born in Srinagar. After graduating with an Arts degree from the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, he took advanced studies in adventure sports like mountaineering and skiing. He is now an adventure tour consultant, running a tour and travel business with outlets in Srinagar, Nepal and Bhutan.
Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 57, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf teaches aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)
No More Environmental Disasters in Kashmir Please
This refers to the meeting of some ministers and bureaucrats of Jammu and Kashmir Government, held in Srinagar recently in connection with the construction of a road on Poonch and Gulmarg sector in Kashmir. Many environmentalists, explorers and the adventurers of the state were shocked on hearing the news. They believe that it would be yet another mistake of the Government to destroy the natural beauty of the scenic Pirpanjal range in Kashmir Himalayas. It is astonishing that the meeting was chaired by a minister who himself looks after the environment and forest ministry in Jammu and Kashmir state and is a leader of the Gujar (nomad) community. It is in fact his foremost duty to protect the environment of the state and to safeguard the interests of his poor community. Construction of one more road between Poonch and Kashmir will never be called a development. It would rather destroy the fragile Pirpanjal range.
How nice it would have been if the Government could operate Twin Otter aircrafts for conveyance of locals instead of laying expensive black toped roads though the mountainous terrains. Due to soil erosion and heavy snow fall in the Pirpanjal range we fear that the Gulmarg-Poonch road could ever become all weather road.
Perhaps the proposed road from Poonch to Gulmarg would also be not in the interests of Gujars and Bakerwals (nomad communities) who otherwise prefer to travel through pastures so that they could feed their cattle enroute. It would be less development and more destruction for Gujars in particular. It will obviously demolish their habitat. Construction of road in this belt would be nothing but an aggression to the nomad community and the wildlife. It will certainly snatch their bread and butter. The Gujar leaders must come forward and fight for genuine cause of their community. The move seems to be a political gimmick of our ministers. We do not understand what made them to think of laying yet another road to link Kashmir to Poonch when the Mughal road has just been opened for general traffic. We suggest connecting Pooch with Gulmarg through Cable Car and not by road. Cable Car could be suitable both for the development of tourism and for providing transportation to the locals here. This is amazing that many European countries are linked to each other through cable cars. One can travel from Switzerland to Austria or other neighboring countries by a Cable Car but alas! We cannot travel from one district to another through this mode of transportation. Laying road on this mountainous terrain would perhaps cost more money than the cable Car. It is admitted fact that we have tremendous scope for winter tourism in Pirpanjal range. There are many meadows behind Mount Apharwat and in nearby Tosamaidan region but we need a cable car to take tourists there.
The road will not only fell lacs of trees but will also cause threat to wildlife here. This area habitat some extinct species of wildlife including snow leopard, brown bear, fox and musk dear etc. we have a wildlife sanctuary here which may also be affected. So far winter sports are concerned these are becoming increasingly popular in Gulmarg. On weekends and holidays thousands of tourists come here for skiing. It is felt that after fifty years there will be no space for people to ski here. The back drop of Mount Apharwat is the treasure for winter sports and we have to preserve it for our posterity. Many tourists are seen venturing out from Gulmarg to Sunrise and Sunset peaks during winter to ski in the virgin areas or do extreme skiing there. We request the authorities to desist from constructing one more road in Pirpanjal range. It is surprising that on the one hand the politicians and bureaucrats are celebrating World Environment Days and Weeks with great pomp and show in confined halls and issue big messages in the newspapers but on the other hand they take such steps those are no way helpful in protecting the environment.