This picturesque park has been ruined due to official apathy, writes Reyaz Ahmad
Baramulla: The Baramulla Eco park lies in shambles due to which the number of tourists visiting here have taken a hit.
Despite being bestowed with natural beauty, officials have failed to create the requisite infrastructure.
From a down stair walk to swing stroll on foot-bridge hanging over gushing waters this tourist destination is distinctive spot.
Overlooked by the sky touching mountains on the banks of river Jhelum that makes its way to Pakistan, the famous Eco Park has its unique features among all the parks of the valley.
Unfortunately, the island park has not attracted the desired number of tourists.
Rajani Kumari of Rajasthan is all praise for this tourist spot. “I have never seen such a wonderful park. I am planning to come here again with my family now,”
“The most attracting part of it was meeting point of river Jhelum.”
A turn dug out from a rocky mountain after a four kilometre drive from main town provides a peep into nature’s show piece.
Significantly, the park is located at the edge of Danakhan curve- an outlet which is believed to be dug by famous saint Khasf Reshi (RA) to drain out waters of Sati Sar.
During the peak of summers, this island park is rolling out an unending green carpet to its visitors while cool and gentle breeze refreshes their minds.
It remains overcrowded as most of the schools of north Kashmir choose it as their destination for picnics in summers. Formerly, the schools of north Kashmir would prefer to visit Mughal gardens of Srinagar or Dal Lake for excursion.
Echo Park is also visited by newlywed couples, but visitors rue lack of facilities.
While the children enjoy recreational activities green-igloo and fishing making their short picnics most memorable movements of life, the breathtaking view points, folk music shows are an additional treat here for newlywed couples.
The cafeteria situated in the lush green lawns is adding flavour to the fun of people. It echoes with the mesmerizing ghazals of famous singers adding delicacy to its fast food and Kashmiri wazwan.
“It is nice experience to run a cafeteria here. Initially there was very low response but gradually rush of tourists increased but it will take some time to develop the taste,” said Tanveer Ahmed Shah, a cafeteria owner.
As the dusk falls, lights shine through the bushes of willow trees and frame fascinating shades over the green carpet.
“We are very happy with development of this tourist spot, everyone can come here to spend holidays and find a peaceful atmosphere. Many youth got their employment in this park and it can generate more business avenues and help other unemployed youth to a large extent,” said a local Abdul Rehman Sheikh.
People are expecting that the growing rush of tourists will help them to boost their economy and increase employment opportunities for their youth.
The tourist officer at the park, Manzoor Ahmad Wani says that the park has good footfall of tourists. “We have good response as people meet the nature here in serene and splendid environs. It relieves their stress. Not only locals but outsides are also attracted to its mesmerizing beauty,”
He says they are planning to attract more foreign tourists to the spot. “We want more and more tourists particularly foreigners to come as it can be one of the best tourist spots of the valley. Prime focus of tourism department is development cum maintenance of this distinctive park and make it eco-friendly,” added Wani.
He informed that authorities have strictly prohibited polythene bags inside park and have put many bins to collect the waste.
“We want to make it Social Park so that everyone can come along families and enjoy some good movements. Government has identified around 3500 kannals of land along the river Jhelum to construct small golf clubs, rose gardens, recreational parks and artificial lakes alongside it in the town,” Wani reveals.
Officials of the tourist department here opine that Jehlum will be major tourist attraction once it’s much awaited beautification project takes off that was recently sanctioned by Ministry of Water Resources, New Delhi.
They say that this tourist destination has rich potential of attracting tourists and the department is putting every possible effort to develop it.
Like so many other tourist spots, the Eco Park is lacking its promotion by the concerned authorities to bring it on the mainstream tourist map. The park has not only failed to generate the expected revenue for the concerned department, but is also unable to create the employment opportunities and boost the local economy.
Even the footfalls of locals to the park have also reduced in last few years given to the weak policy of government in promoting it.
“In Srinagar and other places, the entry fee is around Rs 10 despite the fact that they are well developed. We really don’t know what prompted authorities here to charge Rs 20 for entry into the park,” said the local visitors.
“Our appeal to tourism minister and director tourism to look into the matter and minimize the entry charges fell to the deaf ears,” said local Fayaz Ahmed.
“Out of 250 kanals of land, landscaping has been only carried out on 40 kanals. The concerned authorities have so far failed to execute the Phase-II expansion project of the park which includes establishing of Water Sports in the Jhelum link and to connect the unexplored areas like Hajibal, Gabiwar etc via cable car gondola”.
However, the under developed park annually fetches the revenue generation of Rs 10-12 lakh to the Tourism department.
According to the locals, the authorities have also failed to make the three tourist huts functional in the park. They have even failed to utilize the already build huts for the connivance of visitors. The damaged lights, viewpoints and fencing have not been repaired also.
Landslide triggered by recent rains damaged approach stairs of the park and interiors of the park are in shambles as broken lights, scattered fencing and dense woods are acting as its eyesores. It also lacks sanitation.
This eco-friendly park is gradually losing its beauty and pristine glory to official apathy.