SRINAGAR: The ongoing dry spell in Kashmir during the Chilla-e-Kalaan, the 40-day harsh winter period, is keeping snow-loving tourists, both international and domestic, away from the Valley. With only 30 per cent occupancy in houseboats in Srinagar, it highlights the impact of the dry spell on Kashmir’s tourism sector.
A significant number of foreign and domestic tourists have either postponed or cancelled their visits to Kashmir. Tour operators and tourism stakeholders note that this is the time when tourists from Southeast Asia and other countries usually prefer to stay in Kashmir, but the dry weather has disrupted these plans.
“Majority of houseboat bookings have either been cancelled or put on hold by international and domestic guests,” said Manzoor Pakhtoo, President of the House Boat Owners Association (HBOA), Kashmir.
He mentioned that 70 per cent of houseboats in Dal and Nigeen lakes are currently empty, with only 30 per cent occupancy, marking a historic low for winter tourism. Pakhtoo expressed concern about the prolonged dry spell, particularly its impact on adventure tourism. “The tourists who would come in January were all adventure lovers, and for adventure tourism, snow is the first requirement. I believe adventure tourism is in danger as there is no snow,” he stated.
Last year, J&K received 55,000 tourists out of a total of 2.12 crore tourist arrivals. This year, the administration aims for 3 crore tourists, but the dry winter poses a significant threat to achieving this target.
Regarding the impact of the dry spell on the water level in Dal and Nigeen lakes, Pakhtoo mentioned that, so far, there is no major impact, but if winter passes without snow, Dal Lake could face issues. Houseboat owners are already grappling with challenges due to a ban on new houseboat construction, and the repairing process involves technical issues that owners are reluctant to address. Currently, the number of houseboats has reduced to 750 from 1200 in 2013.
Many residents around Dal Lake emphasise the necessity of snow to maintain adequate water levels. “God forbid, if winter passes without downpours and snow, the administration must start dredging Dal Lake,” said Ali Muhammad from the Nishat area of Srinagar. (KNO)
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)