Biodiversity Parks in north Kashmir draw record tourist footfall, enrich local economy
Post by Noor Mohi-ud-din on Thursday, August 31, 2023
Baramulla, Aug 30: The department of forest in North Kashmir has established biodiversity parks that have recently seen a surge in tourist visits, paving the way for increased economic opportunities for the locals.
Officials said that these parks, which are gaining popularity among local tourists and students, hold the potential to attract foreign tourists and researchers in the future. An official from the forest department stated that these biodiversity parks are part of the government's broader initiative to tap into the tourism potential of lesser-known areas in north Kashmir, while also preserving the area's biodiversity. The efforts seem to have paid off, with around 184,531 visitors recorded over the past few months across eleven biodiversity parks situated in four forest divisions of north Kashmir.
Notably, the number of visitors has been steadily rising, reaching 24,235 in the month of July alone.
The influx of tourists has prompted the need for additional staff to manage and maintain these parks. This boom has also provided the forest department with renewed hope to establish more parks in the coming years.
Irfan Rasool Wani (IFS), the Conservator of the North Kashmir circle, highlighted that the department has already introduced 78 trekking routes in Jammu and Kashmir, many of which are now accessible to trekkers due to the development of border tourism. "28 trek routes have been introduced in parts of north Kashmir only."
Wani further explained that the forest department is actively promoting ecotourism by creating environment parks near trekking routes and forest rest houses. This approach not only fosters forest conservation but also involves local communities, offering them a livelihood through various tourism-related services.
The initiative extends to student outreach programs, conducted within these biodiversity parks every weekend, with the aim of educating and engaging the younger generation in environmental preservation. Among the attractions of these parks are Herbal Vatikas, Native wildlife depicted in wooden artefacts, informative environment sign-ages, forest settings, and student-friendly amphi-theatres. Recognising the success of these initiatives, plans are underway to establish two more environment parks in Baramulla district - Green Park Mundje Rafiabad and Salamabad Environment Park.
Local residents have lauded the forest department's efforts, acknowledging that the parks serve as educational hubs for students and a source of employment for the local youth. Ishtiyaq Ahmad, a local resident, emphasized the positive impact on home stay businesses and local youth who are now offering camping services and guides to tourists and trekkers.
Tariq Ahmad, another local resident, expressed his support for the eco park concept, seeing it as a means to provide recreational facilities to those residing on the fringes of forests, as well as nature enthusiasts. Despite the success, the forest department has issued a plea to tourists, urging them not to carry polythene bags and to refrain from damaging medicinal plants and artificial artefacts while visiting these parks.