Jammu and Kashmir govt approves Master Plan to develop Gulmarg as ace tourist destination

Jammu: Battling encroachment, haphazard construction and deforestation, the picturesque town of Gulmarg will be developed into an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable tourist destination, the Gulmarg Master Plan-2032, approved by the Jammu and Kashmir government, has envisaged.
The State Administrative Council (SAC) which met here Thursday evening under the chairmanship of Governor Satya Pal Malik approved the Master Plan, an official spokesman said Friday.

The plan proposes to maximise the contribution of Gulmarg and its surroundings to the state’s economy, while preserving its rich natural and cultural heritage, the official said.

At the same time, it proposes to provide the best hospitality, excellent value for money and memorable experiences to every visitor and develop Gulmarg as one of the preferred all-weather international tourist destinations.

According to the official, the main features of the plan include the development of Tangmarg area in the vicinity of Gulmarg as Satellite-Tourist-Township with flexible set of Development Control Regulations (DCRs) to attract developers for high-end tourism infrastructure.

“This concept is aimed at reducing further the foot print of development in Gulmarg which has very limited carrying capacity,” the official said.

Significant part of Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) especially Gulmarg, Khillanmarg, Botapathri and nearby areas included in the territorial jurisdiction of Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary and Biosphere reserve will not be used for any high built-up infrastructure development, the official said.

“Instead such areas have been proposed for leisure-tourism, eco-tourism, and adventure tourism,” the official said.

Bed capacity of Gulmarg has been further supplemented by extra accommodation in the form of tourist resort in the south-west of Bowl and hutments and camping sites on the western end of Leopard Valley besides eco-tourism areas.

The Master Plan also envisages development of tourist resorts in Tangmarg, Botapathri, Khillanmarg as model ecotourism sites in collaboration with the local communities, wildlife and forest department and development of Drung as heritage village with limited tourist activity.

The banning of any kind of compound walling in the area, development of Maahayeen, Qazipur, and Ferozpur as model villages and Baba Reshie area as heritage area with facilities for pilgrim tourism is also expected, the official added.

The plan further proposes biodiversity parks of Kashmir Himalayan Flora in Gulmarg; separate entry and exit points to avoid traffic congestions and Pony Management to arrest horse dung posing a serious problem in the resort as most of it is littered creating an unpleasant landscape.

The preparations of Master Plan-2032 were initiated pursuant to the orders of the High Court in PIL titled Mohammad Rafiq Zargar versus State and Others, the official said.

The preparation was preceded by environmental impact assessment and GIS mapping of the Gulmarg part of the local area.

The Draft Master Plan-2032 prepared by the Town Planning Organisation, Kashmir has been extensively examined by the tourism department for the last five years with the High Court closely monitoring its preparation.

The plan was also put in public domain for inviting objections and suggestions and the tourism department had constituted a committee to examine the inputs, they said, adding that proposals which were found to be useful were factored in the final Draft Master Plan.

The Master Plan does not intend to regularise any violation or construction made in contravention to the permission granted earlier or any construction without valid permission, the official said.

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