AC approves 7 new trekking routes in wildlife protected areas of J&K, rolls out Houseboat Policy

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STATE TIMES NEWS

JAMMU: In a mega push to promote eco-tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Administrative Council (AC), which met on Monday under the chairmanship of Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, approved the development of seven new trekking routes in various wildlife protected areas by the Wildlife Department in coordination with the Tourism Department.
To sustainably promote tourism in the forest hinterland without disturbing the ecological balance in the protected areas, the Administrative Council also approved opening-up of the existing infrastructure and resources of the Forest Department including rest houses/inspection huts to tourists and wildlife enthusiasts.
The decision will allow online booking of 29 forest rest houses/inspection huts in Kashmir and Jammu divisions; under a common brand and logo from 1st May 2021.
The Department of Forest, Ecology & Environment was directed to put in place a user-friendly online portal for booking identified rest houses on a first-come, first-serve basis as per their availability and intake capacity. The Department was directed to refurbish and open another batch of 58 rest houses/huts to tourists by 1st July 2021.
These accommodations are located in different forest divisions at the quaintest places amidst pristine nature. Hitherto, they were reserved for forest officers to be utilized only during official tours in connection with conservation, protection, and management of forests and wildlife.
Meanwhile, the Administrative Council also approved development of new trekking routes in Bahu Conservation Reserve, Sudhmahadev Conservation Reserve, Thein Wildlife Conservation Reserve, Tral Wildlife Sanctuary-Dachigam National Park-Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary, Thajwas Wildlife Sanctuary, Khrew Wildlife Conservation Reserve-Dachigam National Park-Khonmoh Conservation Reserve, and Khrew Wildlife Conservation Reserve.
The trekking avenues range from short day-long treks up and down mountain slopes, to long-trans-mountain traverses involving a week of trekking and camping in the wilderness. These trekking routes pass through scenic splendors, with wild fauna and flora. Now that youth across India are inclined more towards adventure activities, these treks will be developed as well sought-after destinations for trekkers.
The development of these trekking routes will provide gainful employment to the local population and tap the adventure/eco-tourism potential of the UT.
The AC also approved the roll-out of policy and guidelines for sustainable operation of houseboats in Dal and Nigeen lakes.
In a bid to preserve the marine eco-system of both the lakes, the new policy aims to regulate the functioning of houseboats moored in Dal and Nigeen lakes by adopting the models of sustainable and responsible tourism.
The policy envisages providing a pleasant experience to tourists and sustainable source of living to stakeholders while preserving the fragile ecosystem.
Keeping in view the carrying capacities, the Tourism Department has capped the number of houseboats in both lakes at 910. Under the new policy, the houseboats are required to be registered online subject to the fulfillment of various conservation parameters; within 30 days from the date notification of the policy.
The houseboats and associated structures are required to be fitted with bio-digesters for scientific treatment of solid/liquid waste as per the approved design of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, besides ensuring availability of adequate fire safety equipment along with trained staff to be verified by Fire & Emergency Services Department.
Further, the policy lays down regulations for ancillary facilities like kitchen, lodging, furniture, first-aid, electricity, power back-up, sanitary fittings and shikara for navigation. It also ensures availability of minimum basic facilities to the tourists to be categorised on the basis of different classes of houseboats.
The policy includes provisions for undertaking repairs on damaged, dilapidated and abandoned houseboats, and revival of cruise boats and donga cruise.
Moreover, the policy provides for constitution of an Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Director Tourism Kashmir to look into the conservation of the lakes in relation to the functioning of the houseboats while recommending measures to increase the tourist influx in a sustainable manner.
Additionally, a Regulatory Committee headed by Deputy Director, Tourism will also be constituted for ensuring compliance with the norms and procedures laid down in the policy.
The policy bridges the aspirations of all stakeholders while complying with the directions of the High Court in the matter.