Srinagar, July 21: A young forest officer in north Kashmir’s Handwara town has discovered a new trekking route that has become a favourite place for nature lovers in the area.
The young officer, Aijaz Ahmad, started his journey in the promotion of eco-tourism in the Langate forest division, where he took 30 batches of local youth to Bangus Valley to explore nature and its bounties. These groups were later established as trekking clubs.
After his interest, he took the initiative for a few years on his own after some time he was fully supported by his colleagues in the forest department. He discovered a trekking route that is now witnessing a huge rush of local and non-local trekkers.
Aijaz believes that there are many benefits of nature treks through the Alpine forests. It has also physical, mental, and social health benefits and later trekkers can also become forest guardians in different ways, he said.
"Be that a deterrent to destructive human activities or be that preventing timber smuggling, a caretaker in preventing forest fires, land encroachments, preventing drug addiction, and other antisocial activities,” the young officer said.
Aijaz said to generate livelihood among forest-dwelling communities, he visited potters of the block and had an in-person meeting with them, motivating them to restart their work and make pottery items, which could replace plastic ware.
"Five potters out of seven have started work and have made a variety of items. He imparted training to forest-dwelling communities about the creation of pinecone art and décor items from unused forest produce replace plastic with eco-friendly products, thus giving shape to unused forest produce into beautiful decor items that could capture the international market.
He said the trekking and hiking activities not only spread awareness but also contributed to the well-being of an individual’s health, from calorie burning to stamina building, from nature walks to peak summiting, Trekking activities through green canopies have influenced the health of people associated with them.
When asked how he started the same, Aijaz said "At the beginning, I was doing this unofficially," adding that when the Chief Conservator of North Kashmir, Irfan Rasool, came to know about this, he guided him to do it with passion.
The officer said who are trekking on this route are being provided every facility by the department like refreshments and tents so they can enjoy their trekking.
He went on to say that since its official launch as many as 30 local batches have taken place on this trekking route. "Some international tourists are coming for trekking in July this month the officer said."
According to the senior forest officer, for the first time, the forest department in the area has witnessed a boom in innovation and eco-tourism with the endless and formidable efforts of the young officer, Aijaz Ahmad.
He said the young officer is inviting national and international trekkers on this route. This is also the first trekking route in the Kupwara district and was officially inaugurated by PCCF JK Dr. Mohit Gera last year.
"Our motto is to popularize these beautiful locations. Besides local trekkers, this also targets a specific group of tourists who love adventure travel,” he said.
Aijaz said it will also create a livelihood in the villages on the forest fringes through home-stays, nature guides, trek operators, food stalls, and forest souvenirs.
The young officer, Aijaz Ahmad, started his journey in the promotion of eco-tourism in Langate Forest Division, where he took 30 batches of local youth to Bangus Valley to explore nature and its bounties. These groups were later established as trekking clubs.