Urges Tourism department for strict implementation of recently framed guidelines for ATOs
Claiming that unregistered and non-state subject companies are organising ‘unregulated’ trekking in Kashmir, the Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir (ATOAK) Thursday urged Tourism Department to ensure strict implementation of the guidelines outlined in Tourist Trade Act of Jammu & Kashmir state.
Notably, the Department of Tourism recently framed guidelines for Adventure Tour Operators (ATOs) of the State for smooth, safe and environment-friendly operation of adventure programs in the valley.
In a statement, ATOAK complained that mess has been created by ‘unprofessional and non-registered’ and non-state subject trekking companies in Sindh and Lidder valleys.
“We have some serious threats to the development of adventure tourism in Kashmir Valley. As per newly-framed guidelines by department of tourism, only registered ATOs of the state have been authorized to run adventure activities including trekking in the state. The new guidelines discourages unregistered companies and individuals to run any commercial trekking programs until they full-fill the norms in vogue.”
ATOAK also expressed its dismay stating some outside companies like India Hikes, Track de Himalaya and Youth Hostel Association of India etc are organizing Great Lakes trek in huge numbers with large number of trekkers in their each trek.
“The companies have created fixed tented colonies at all the campsites on the route. This unethical and unprofessional practice not only squeezes space for other fellow trekkers but creates environmental problems for the area as well.”
ATOAK said they have learnt that these non-state companies don’t manage and keep campsites clean and tidy nor they carry back the garbage from trekking area as per the mandatory norms.
“All the garbage which includes hazardous polythene, plastic, glass and tin is dumped near the camping sites thus creating environmental problems in the trekking areas. Nowhere in the world is trekking organized with such large participation in one single group.”
ATOAK said it fears that this trend if not arrested will create Nanda Devi and Nepal like situation.
“We also fear that under these circumstances the National Green Tribunal (NGT) may stop trekking in this environmentally most fragile area which would be a great and direct loss to the local adventure tour operators and local economy as well.”
While hailing government’s efforts to streamline adventure tourism in Jammu & Kashmir, ATOAK urged Directorate of Tourism Kashmir to allow outside trekking companies on the conditions that they engage local adventure tour operators as their handling agents for their trekking programs in the state.
“The local adventure tour operators strictly follow guidelines which are laid down in tourist trade act of Jammu & Kashmir state. They also engage local staff and trained guides which helps create job opportunities among local unemployed youth.”