Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ms Mehbooba Mufti Sunday during her maiden visit to Tosmaidan – a sprawling meadow in the mountains of Central Kashmir’s Budgam – asked the local populace to “take care of the environmentally fragile tourist resort”.
Ms Mufti addressed locals of the adjacent villages who had arrived at the spot to celebrate the three day festival which asked today.
“Tosmaidan is yours,” she told the local populace, “so take care of it.”
Ms Mufti asserted that she “was not in favour” of concrete buildings, hence, “government will help the locals to improvise 50 dhokas into huts habitable for tourists”.
Ms Mufti asked officials to create a “unique identity” of Tosmaidan. “Unlike Gulmarg and Sonamarg, Tosmaidan should have its own and a unique identity which should attract tourists,” she said.
Acknowledging that her predecessor, Omar Abdullah led government played its role in not extending the lease to army, Ms Mufti, however, has tough road ahead viz-a-viz army’s demand of Bajpathri as alternate site to continue its drills.
Tosmaidan was used by army for firing and shelling exercises up to summer of 2013. The meadow was leased out to army in in early 1960s which expired in July 2014. After continuous campaigns by locals, civil society groups and politicians across the ideological divide, the J&K government did not extend the lease.
However, army has asked J&K Government to allot another tourist rich destination, Bajpathri, for continuing its exercise. They are fighting a case in National Green Tribunal for it, as well.
Appealing people to say no to polythene “to keep Tosmaidan neat and clean”, Ms Mufti told the locals, especially horse men, “to show generosity and hospitality towards tourists”. “Set a reasonable rate list,” she told the horsemen, “don’t indulge in unfair trade once tourists arrive.”
She called for turning Tosmaidan into a tourist destination for adventure sports including para-gliding, skiing, skating, trekking.
On the occasion, a group of cyclists and drivers performed mountain biking and drove “all-terrain vehicles”, respectively.
Several local representative delegations demanded separate development authority for developing Tosmaidan.
They asked CM to improve the condition of 15 km muddy road from Sitharan to Tosmaidan.
While the CM promised to set up separate development authority, she said, vehicles will have to remain out of Tosmaidan by at least 2 km to keep the spot pollution free and its natural scenery intact.