Srinagar, Jan 19: Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh district has emerged as a favourite destination for foreign tourists as nearly 50,000 people from abroad visited the land of high passes last year, tourism officials said Saturday.
The overall tourist arrivals in 2018 in the district, located at an altitude of 3,524 metres (11,562 ft), also crossed three lakh mark for the first time, setting a new record, the officials said.
“A total of 3,27,366 tourists, including 49,477 foreigners, visited Leh in 2018, marking an increase of over 50,000 compared to the previous year,” a senior official of the state Tourism Department told PTI.
He said the tourist arrivals in the district first touched the six-figure mark in 2011 when 1,79,491 tourists, including 36,662 foreigners, visited the district.
The feat was achieved a year after sudden floods in August – considered as the peak tourist season – caused by a cloudburst heavily damaged the town.
In 2014, the record number of 59,305 western backpackers flocked the area along with over 1.21 lakh domestic tourists.
The number of tourist arrivals, however, dropped to 1.46 lakh in 2015 but picked up again next year, crossing 2.33 lakh, including 37,497 foreigners, the official said, adding the figures reached 2,77,255 in 2017, including 46,593 foreigners in 2017.
Ladakh, also known as the cold desert, usually remains cut off from rest of the country owing to heavy snowfall which blocks 434-km Srinagar-Leh and 490-km Manali-Leh highways for months together owing to heavy snowfall along the high passes.
Last year, the Centre had approved the construction of the 14.2-km long tunnel project, Asia’s longest bi-directional Zojila Pass tunnel at an estimated cost of Rs 6,089 crore, to provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil, and Leh which, when completed, will further give a boost to the tourism sector in the region.
“The tourist arrivals by road remain restricted between April and October, as a result of which other months of the year record a very low turnout,” the official said.
Last year, he said that 5,665 tourists arrived in January followed by 1,136 in February, 1,298 in March and 11,277 in April when the road connectivity to the region was restored.
As many as 44,583 tourists visited Leh in May followed by 77,041 in June, 70,139 in July, 53,621 in August, 38,049 in September, 20,784 in October, 2,416 in November and 1,357 in December, the official said.
The highest number of 13,033 foreign tourists visited Leh in August followed by 12,226 in July, 7,355 in September and 6,209 in June, the official said adding only 421 foreigners visited the region in January, 476 in February, 523 in March, 2,678 in April, 2,785 in May, 3,223 in October, 286 in November and 262 in December.
“Leh district possesses immense tourism potential and the Governor’s administration is keen to upgrade its tourism-related infrastructure to attract increased tourist footfall to the region,” Chief Secretary B V R Subramanyam, who visited Leh on Friday and held a series of meetings, said.
Expressing happiness over the increasing trend of tourist inflow to Leh, the chief secretary stressed on Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, to work out a master plan for guiding tourism sector towards inclusive and sustainable development of the district.
Coming up of new parties, alliances dangerous for Kashmir: Experts
Srinagar, Jun 19: The coming up of new political parties and alliances ahead of assembly polls can be dangerous for Kashmir as it will lead to the fractured mandate, thereby favouring BJP, experts claim.
On Tuesday former bureaucrat Shah Faesal and independent legislator from Langate Er Abdul Rasheed announced “Peoples United Front” for upcoming assembly polls.
Political pundits, however, believe that the fractured mandate led by such alliances in the upcoming assembly polls was aimed to divide Kashmiris.
“It is a very dangerous approach and Kashmiris should not allow the fractured mandate. Those who care about Kashmir should support one party of unit instead of paving way for fractured mandate due to these alliances,” said noted academician and an expert in politics, Sidiq Wahid.
The formation of new political alliances, he said, was a “policy of Government of India for a decade to divide Kashmiris.”
“I really feel that this new so-called alliance that has been formed is mudding the waters,” Wahid said.
Another expert in politics, Prof Gul Mohammad Wani, said the suspicions and doubts among people will intensify when centres rule is extends its rule to the state.
“Even after holding Panchayat, Municipal election or parliamentary polls either, the government doesn’t seem to be in a mood to hold assembly election in the state as of now,” he said.
Wani however said the emergence of new alliances could be due to failures by the political parties “to allow internal democracy in the state.”
“Mostly leaders or new groups emerge or come out of the existing political parties under such circumstances,” he said.
Wani said that the existing political parties including NC, PDP and Congress require increasing ideological and political space to build credible leadership.
Soon after the formation of new PUF, former chief minister and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah said the alliance was aimed to divide voters in Kashmir.
He questioned about lack of such alliances in Jammu or Ladakh regions of the state.
Srinagar, Sonawari, Awantipora prone to floods: Study
Srinagar, June 19: Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed abrupt changes in climate over the years. According to a disaster management report, 13 districts in J&K, out of 100 districts in India, have been identified as ‘multi-hazard districts’.
“Majority areas of the valley, especially Sonawari, Awantipora and Srinagar, along with parts of Jammu are prone to floods. Upper catchments of all the tributaries of the Jhelum, Indus, Chenab and Tawi rivers are prone to flash floods,” the report said. All these areas were worst hit by September-2014 floods and are prone to floods.
While the recent study says that out of the 12 states, Assam, Mizoram and Jammu & Kashmir are extremely vulnerable to global warming.
“Based on this assessment, the vulnerability index is found to be the highest for Assam (0.72) and Mizoram (0.71), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (0.62), Manipur (0.59), Meghalaya and West Bengal (both 0.58), Nagaland (0.57), Himachal Pradesh and Tripura (0.51 both), Arunachal Pradesh (0.47) and Uttarakhand (0.45). Sikkim is the least vulnerable state with the index being 0.42,” the study says.
It says that, “Several drivers of vulnerability are evident for the state of J&K. These include, in the order of significance, least road density, no area under crop insurance, low area under forests per 1,000 rural households, high percentage of marginal farmers, low percentage area under horticulture crops, low livestock to human ratio and low percentage of women in the overall workforce.”
The study says that climate change is already occurring and impacting natural ecosystems and human societies.
It says, “To reduce these uncertainties and plan towards sustainable development it is essential to adopt evidence based adaptation planning in IHR. This requires an in-depth understanding of the key risks and vulnerabilities derived from scientific assessments.”
The study has been authored by IIT Guwahati Anamika Barua Associate Professor Deptt. of Humanities and Social Science Principal Investigator Rupam Bhaduri Research Scholar Centre for the Environment Vishaka Gulati Research Scholar Deptt. of Humanities and Social Sciences IIT Mandi Shyamasree Dasgupta Assistant Professor School of Humanities and Social Sciences Co – Principal Investigator Kritishnu Sanyal Project Associate School of Humanities and Social Sciences Mir Khursheed Alam Research Scholar School of Humanities and Social Sciences IISc Bangalore N.H. Ravindranath Professor Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) Key Resource Person Indu K Murthy Consultant Scientist Centre for Sustainable Technologies Tashina Esteves Research Associate Jagmohan Sharma Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Forest Conservation) Government of Karnataka.
Massive reshuffle in police, civil admin likely after June 27
Srinagar, Jun 19: A massive reshuffle in civil and police administration is likely to be ordered anytime after June 27 when the ongoing “Back to village” program launched by Governor’s administration across Jammu and Kashmir will come to an end.
Authoritative sources said that exercise for a massive reshuffle in civil and police administration has been set into motion with the proposals being processed for transfer of senior IAS and IPS officers holding key positions in the state administration. The proposals for deputation of several senior IAS and IPS officers and return of some others from central deputation to Jammu and Kashmir government have been set into motion.
In the likely reshuffle in civil and police administration several administrative secretaries are likely to be relieved of the additional charge of some key departments which they are overseeing presently in addition to their own duties.
The reshuffle could be ordered phase wise to dispel the impression about the working of some non-performing officers presently holding key positions as directors of some key departments and deputy commissioners of districts in all the three regions Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.