Kashmir is all set to host the winter commonwealth games of 2010. This is supposed to give a boost to Kashmir's image as a global tourist destination. Gulmarg, the medow of flowers, where National Winter Games have been held in the past, shall be the venue of the games.
Gulmrag boasts of a 5 km long ropeway and some of the best Ski slopes in the world. GDA or Gulmarg Development Agency handles this resort, lately it has been called the Gulmarg Destruction Agency as it is replete with 'stupid' people.
But, some questions which are self evident will not be posed by the people of this state to the government, thus giving a free hand to the 'dirty hands' of the government and politicians.
Will the government be able to give a flip to the infrastructure in the next four years?
Will the government utilise this opportunity to boost the over all image of Kashmir or will it just concentrate on Gulmarg?
Most likely the government hand in hand with the sycophants in the administration will stay focussed on Gulmarg and it's surroundings thus losing the overall advantages that such events provide. Concerns of ecology will not arise at all.
I reproduce an article, that describes very well the attitude of the administration.
Greater Kashmir, 7th Jan, 2006
Kashmir loses to Himachal!
Recently there has been some talk about holding of Commonwealth Winter Games in Kashmir. However, it seems Kashmir may have lost the bid to Himachal even before the dream could take some shape. In the Annual Convention of the Association of Adventure Tour Operators of India held in New Delhi from December 21 to 22, a presentation was made by the representative of Mr. Alferd Ford about a multi-million dollar Ski Resort being developed in Himachal Pradesh.
The Resort is expected to be World Class and would have all
the facilities not only to hold Regional Games but even Winter Olympics. It is a massive Development Project being undertaken on turnkey basis by the Americans. It transpires that Mr.Alferd Ford, the grand son of Henry Ford had last winter first visited Kashmir. He was very keen to develop a top of the line Ski Resort in the Himalayas. Kashmir with its snow conditions, climate and fantastic slopes as well as with some of the existing infrastructure including an up coming International Airport would have been an ideal location.
However, he got a very poor response here and was even cold-shouldered. He had no choice but to approach the Himachal Government. Well, they laid a red carpet for him and went out of the way to woo him completely and totally. What a tragic and terrible loss to Kashmir Tourism? Caused by the clumsy and unprofessional approach of the people responsible for development of these activities and of course with the lackadaisical attitude of the “Politicians” who hold their personal interest above the interest of the People as well as of the State. One would normally expect a probe in to this unfortunate episode?
Taking a cue from this incident let us examine the possibilities of Winter Sports in Kashmir. We have probably one of the best Ski Areas in the World. There is potential to set up over a dozen World Class Ski Resorts in Kashmir. The excellent snow conditions, the wonderful climate involving maximum sunny days in winter, some of the most challenging slopes and ideal altitude for positioning of the resorts make Kashmir a mine of “White Gold”. We have extensive potential for not only Downhill Skiing but for both Cross Country as well as Mountain Skiing. Some of the most fantastic and scenic trails for these sports exist in the mountains of Kashmir.
Historically we started skiing as a sport almost at the same time as it was started in the Alps. Two British Army Officers, Major Headow and Major Metcarp established the Ski Club of India at Gulmarg in 1927 with late Peston Ji as its Secretary. Skiing rapidly grew in Gulmarg and became a popular sport among the British Army Officers. Two main events were held. One at Christmas time and the other on the occasion of Easter. The slopes above Khilanmarg were used for competitions and the pony trail from Gulmarg to khilanmarg was kept open during winter. There was also a Ski Hut at Khilanmarg. The attendance on Easter Event in 1938 was more than 500.
After the departure of the British in 1947, the resort virtually collapsed. Government of India revived the resort in mid sixties by formulating a comprehensive project for developing Gulmarg as an International Ski Resort. A Ski School with an Austrian Director, Dr.Jens Krauser was set up to train National Ski Instructors. A chairlift was installed. Ski Equipment was imported. The Resort had been earmarked for receiving UNDP assistance. Skiing once again revived and Gulmarg was on way to becoming the only Ski Resort in the Himalayas. However, after the initial euphoria, the development of the resort got bogged down in bureaucratic details and ego clashes.
The Central Government interest, as usual started waning and the progress became very slow. The Project was kept alive for namesake only. On the local level, the State Government took many steps to keep the sport going among the local youth. A large number of locals were trained in Skiing, some of whom took part in the Asian Winter Games as well as Winter Olympics. New equipment was imported and three ski lifts were installed for beginners. After Rajiv-Farooq accord in 1987, the Project received a fresh impetus. It had been pointed out by Experts that the real good slopes of Gulmarg were above the tree line on the Apharwat Mountain. However, these were inaccessible due to absence of a mechanical lift to the top.
A project to set up a Gondola/Cable Car to the top was conceived and initiated for installation through the French Company Pomagalski. However, Gulmarg faced another collapse after the eruption of turmoil in 1990. The whole project got stalled. After a gap of about ten years, work on the Gondola was once again taken up.
Unfortunately, for the management at that time, the Gondola became an end in itself. It was forgotten that it was meant as a means to exploit the upper slopes for development of Winter Sports. It became a revenue-earning proposition through summer tourists.
Development of a Ski Resort has certain basic requirements. Firstly, there have to be well-groomed slopes of International Standards, which have to be homologated by the experts of the World Ski Federation. Then it is mandatory to have Avalanche Control and Ski Patrol for Rescue. Finally comes the infrastructure for accommodation, local transport and after ski recreation. These days the top Resorts in Europe and America have installed even facilities for making artificial snow. Long slopes are fitted with snow making machines. The Resorts cannot afford to be without snow at the scheduled time of starting winter sports. Even if the Nature fails them, the machines will not. If they do not assure skiing to start on specified date and time, they would lose millions of dollars. With the tremendous competition among various resorts, these facilities have to be top notch. People have a wide choice for their Ski Holidays. To be competitive, we have to provide facilities of equal standards if not better! This can be achieved through totally Integrated Development of a Resort. The only way to do this is to assign the work of Resort Development to Professional Multi National Resort Development Agencies and that too through Private Entrepreneurs.
The Government should only act as a Promoter and a Regulator. Unfortunately the reverse is happening here. Everything is being done on ad hoc basis. The mess is created when individual organisation take up different tasks without any professional monitoring and co-ordination. There is still time to set things in the proper perspective. The present rulers have wide experience of Tourism and have travelled extensively worldwide. It should not be difficult for them to rope in a professional agency with some foreign direct investment. There will be many willing participants in Europe, Australia, USA or even Middle East. One has only to explore the possibilities genuinely with dedication.
Unfortunately we are used to taking advice from half-baked sycophants (the stupid people in the GDA -ed) always hovering around us. Professionals hardly have a say. Last decade and a half has completely shattered Kashmir in every possible way. The worst sufferer has been the Tourism. If we are not to lose everything to Himachal and other Himalayan States, then the rulers must wake up immediately and act fast to retrieve the situation!
(The author is the former Director General of Tourism, J & K)
courtesy of greaterkashmir.com