The 594-metre Koh-e-Maraan ropeway missed many deadlines but has finally become a reality

Twenty-five years after the authorities conceived the Kashmir Valley’s first ropeway and created the Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation (JKCCC) to boost tourism at Gulmarg, the State got its second tourist-carrier on Monday. Three Ministers of Omar Abdullah’s government — Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Mian Altaf Ahmad and Ali Mohammad Sagar — dedicated the 594-metre mono-cable ropeway to the residents of Srinagar.

Minister of Environment Mian Altaf said that the Rs 6.50-crore ropeway would ferry devotees, particularly the aged and infirm, from the sprawling Malkhah cemetery to the revered saint Sultanul Aarifeen Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom’s shrine and back. The 16th century saint’s splendid shrine is resting on the foothills of Koh-e-Maraan (hillock of the snakes), commonly known as Hari Parbat, overlooking the old city.

The Valley’s largest Gurudwara Chhattipadshahi as also the Kashmiri Pandits’ spiritual rendezvous of Sharika Devi — seat of the 18-armed goddess Sharika Bhagwati, the presiding deity of Srinagar city — are both on the foothills. Mughal emperor Akbar and his successors had set up the capital, Naagar Nagar, around the same hillock where the festival of Badamwari was an annual feature of the spring celebrations until 1980s. Akbar’s fort, now in a dilapidated condition and occupied by paramilitary forces, is the highest viewing point over the city.

JKPCCC Managing Director Tufail Matoo told that the Makhdoom Sahib ropeway had been planned in the thick of a street turmoil in 2010. Its commercial operation missed several deadlines but has finally become a reality. With eight celluloid-body cabins, four incoming and four outgoing, it will carry 16 passengers either way, for a return journey at Rs. 100 each. “We are expecting 1,500 passengers and revenue of Rs 1.50 lakh every day,” Mr. Matoo said. Each cabin has the capacity for four passengers.

Mr. Matoo said ropeways were high financial viability ventures in tourist States like Jammu and Kashmir. With an investment of around Rs. 30 crore, the JKPCCC commissioned Asia’s highest and the longest (4.9 km) and the world’s second highest altitude ropeway, Gulmarg Gondola, in May 2005, seven years after the completion of its phase-1. “With 6.70 lakh visitors, it fetched us Rs. 34 crore in 2012. This year, over 6 lakh tourists have enjoyed a ride on the Gondola from Gulmarg to Apharwat (13,400 ft) and the revenue has crossed Rs. 32-crore mark.” From January 2014, Gondola will carry skiing enthusiasts from all over the world to the famous alpine slopes of Kongdori and Apharwat.