Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on Thursday that the army should stop creeping here and there in Gulmarg and retain the historic boundaries that it’s High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) had earlier.
Talking to media after formally inaugurating the Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Omar felt concerned over the interventions that the army is making with the landscape. He was reacting to a question about the possibilities demilitarizing the tourist resort that is peaceful and the hospitality sectors main bread and butter.
“If the HAWS restricts itself to the historic boundaries it had, we do not have a problem,” Omar said. “But they start creeping around, a day will come when we will say, you stay we leave.”
HAWS is a highly rated military institute that trains recruits in high altitude warfare. While in summers it operates from Sonamarg, is campus migrates to Gulmarg during winters. It trains soldiers in movement during snow and fighting at inaccessible altitudes Ike Siachen and Kargil heights.
Gulmarg is not far away from the LoC and most of the supplies to the forward positions are being managed and maintained from Gulmarg. Off late, the army has expanded it’s infrastructure in the tourist spot creating a situation that part of the spot looks more a garrison rather than a leisure destination. The issue of armed forces occupying more land, legally and illegally, has remained one of the major issues between the state government and the armed forces.
Omar also hinted at having adequate policy interventions in future that would help manage proper infrastructure without playing with the environmental balance of the places and the capacity of the spots. He said given the emphasis on the ecological issues by the overall society and the apex court, managing implementation of the projects like Gandola is simply possible in the given situation. He said his government is unable to lay a cable car at Patnitop because of envioranmenal reasons. This is despite the fact that everything from survey to the project to the resources required are in place.
In his speech, Omar said the suggestions about creating a ropeway between Tangmarg and Gulmarg is simply impossible because of ecological reasons. He, however, was concerned over the frequent defacing of the macadamized road link between Tangmarg and Gulmarg.
“This road is a singular instance of being relaid season after season,” Oar said in his speech. “In summers we macadamized it and make it like a carpet and the next summer, it is potholed everywhere necessitating another macadamization.” the chief minister, however, insisted he is not aware if the frequent damage is caused because of bad quality of work or the army vehicles using tyre-chains during winters.
Omar said the tourism needs to be sustainable on long term basis. He said the desperation for having more infrastructure should not be managed by vandalizing the spot itself. He talked about Sonamarg to explain his point.