STATE TIMES NEWS
Jammu: Four flights to and from the Jammu airport were cancelled and seven more delayed as dense fog engulfed the region on Tuesday, a day after high-altitude areas, including the Vaishno Devi shrine, received the season’s first heavy snowfall, officials said.Jammu Airport Director Pravat Ranjan Beuria said flight operations were yet to begin due to “poor visibility” caused by foggy conditions.“Four morning flights — three scheduled to operate on Srinagar-Jammu-Srinagar route and one on Jammu-Srinagar-Jammu — have been cancelled, while seven other flights are delayed,” Beuria told PTI.He said visibility was zero at the airport at 9 am, and it improved to 500 metres at 1 pm.
Srinagar: Tourists are making a beeline to Kashmir. The famous twin resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam are witnessing a heavy influx of New Year revellers and most hotels are booked for weeks ahead, with the battered industry rejoicing over the return of the good old days .With regular operations of international flights suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, travellers from across the country have set their sights on the Kashmir valley which seems to be better placed when it comes to dealing with the spread of the virus.The union territory has been witnessing an average of new 250-300 cases per day much lesser than other states in the country. The recent heavy snowfall in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir is also an attracting factor as the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir is hosting around 700-800 visitors, including locals, daily.Amidst the snow-capped mountains, white-carpet meadows and eye-catching icicles, the resort offers a wide range of winter activities like skiing which are an added advantage to the joy of experiencing snow.The tourist resort at an altitude of 8,000 feet, 50 km north of the summer capital Srinagar, has virtually been sold out with most of the hotels registering cent per cent bookings for about the first two weeks of January some even for the whole month.Often described as the ‘heartland of winter sports in India’, Gulmarg will play host to a number of activities in the days ahead much to the delight of holiday makers a number of whom are already camping in one of best ski-destinations of the world — braving sub-zero temperatures.The Tourism Department is going an extra mile to make the beginning of the New Year a memorable one for the visitors and has lined up a number of activities.We have a number of programmes planned for New Year eve. We will have a musical evening which will be followed by a firecracker show to welcome the New Year. There will also be night skiing torch skiing, Assistant Director Tourism, Gulmarg, Javed-ur-Rehman told PTI.He said seven sporting events will also be held on the next day.The official said the ski-resort was packed with tourists and the hotels were sold out for the first two weeks of January.While 8,41,202 domestic and foreign tourists visited the Kashmir valley in 2018, the numbers went down to 4,99,584 in 2019.The Tourism Department did not reveal this year’s figures, saying they were being compiled.However, sources said while no tourist visited the valley in April, May and June 2020 because of the lockdown, the arrivals started in the month of July and gradually picked up in September.The arrivals picked up pace in November and December with over a thousand tourists arriving daily for the last few days.The influx of tourists has brought cheer to the thousands of Kashmiris associated with the tourism sector. The sector has reeled under twin lockdowns for over a year now first in the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370 and then due to the pandemic. The arrival of tourists is a good sign and bodes well for Kashmir. We are hopeful of having a good season if all goes well, Asif Burza, a hotelier who has properties in Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg with some having a tie-up with ITC Hotels, told PTI here.His hotels in the twin resorts are fully packed for the New Year’s eve.Burza said Kashmir is a preferred destination for tourists and as the union territory has been able to contain the virus spread rather successfully than other states, the tourists are looking at no other place.It is after a long, long time that we have business like this on the New Year’s eve. We have film-makers coming here in good numbers for shooting movies or web-series. It looks like the good-old-days of tourism are back, he said.The hotelier said tourism has a force-multiplier effect and good arrivals have an effect on the overall situation and economy in the Kashmir valley.Tourists not only help the tourism sector, but other sectors as well. The business here gets fillip, it helps local produce and arts and crafts to grow. Tourism also promotes people to people contact, Burza said.
“We are waiting for the visibility to improve to the required level (1,000 to 1,200 metres) to restart the flight operations,” the director said.Normal life was been hit across the Jammu plains by the dense fog and chilly weather, the officials said.The fog cleared in most parts by noon, providing some sort of relief to the people, they added. The minimum temperature in Jammu fell by over two notches compared to the previous night to settle at 3.7 degrees Celsius, which is 3.7 degrees below the normal during this part of the season, a spokesperson of the Meteorological department said.He said the city had recorded a maximum temperature of 13.2 degrees Celsius on Monday, which was 5.8 degrees below the season’s average.The day and night temperatures plunged below the season’s average following moderate to heavy snowfall in the high-altitude areas in most parts of Jammu region during the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday.The Vaishno Devi Shrine in Reasi experienced its first snowfall, while other high-altitude areas, including Patnitop hill station in Udhampur and the upper reaches of Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Poonch, Kathua, Reasi and Ramban, also experienced fresh snowfall.While the Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained open for traffic, Mughal Road, which connects the twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region with south Kashmir’s Shopian district, was closed after Peer Ki Gali and adjoining areas witnessed heavy snowfall.Meanwhile, there was moderate snowfall at most places in Kashmir, bringing cheer to those associated with tourism and trade as they expect business to pick up in the New Year’s Eve.Officials said snowfall started in Srinagar around 7 am, several hours after it had begun in neighbouring Budgam and Pulwama districts.Snowfall was also going in Kulgam and Anantnag districts of south Kashmir, they said.The officials said the ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir recorded seven inches of fresh snowfall, while Pahalgam resort in the south and Sonamarg resort in central Kashmir received around three to four inches of snow each.Gurez in north Kashmir recorded three inches of fresh snowfall, they said, adding that there are reports of snowfall in other areas in the upper reaches of the Valley as well.The officials said the area around the Jawahar Tunnel on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway also received snowfall since Monday but the arterial road was open for vehicular movement.The snowfall ahead of the new year has seen many domestic tourists and locals rushing to Gulmarg and Pahalgam, they said.The officials said Gulmarg saw more then 1,200 domestic tourist arrivals on Monday, while over 2,500 locals from various parts of the Valley were also in the skiing resort. The numbers are expected to swell over the next two days, they added.Pahalgam resort also was seeing brisk footfall ahead of the new year celebration.Meanwhile, overcast conditions meant that the night temperature in the city remained around freezing point.The officials said the minimum temperature in Srinagar the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir was 0 degree Celsius on Monday night.They said the mercury in Pahalgam tourist resort in south Kashmir settled at minus 3 degrees Celsius, minus 7.5 degrees Celsius in Gulmarg, minus 0.4 degree Celsius in Qazigund, minus 1 degree Celsius in Kupwara and minus 3 degrees Celsius in Kokernag.The ski-resort of Gulmarg was the coldest recorded place in the valley.Meanwhile, Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai-Kalan’ — the 40-day harshest winter period when a cold wave grips the region and the temperature drops considerably leading to the freezing of water bodies, including the famous Dal Lake here as well as the water supply lines in several parts of the Valley.The chances of snowfall are most frequent and maximum during this period and most areas, especially in the higher reaches, receive heavy snowfall, the officials said.While ‘Chillai-Kalan’ which began on December 21 will end on January 31, the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir with a 20-day-long ‘Chillai-Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day-long ‘Chillai-Bachha’ (baby cold).
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