Kashmir winter sports under a cloud due to closure of 250 hotels

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
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Tourists from abroad at the Gulmarg resort.— file PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD
Tourists from abroad at the Gulmarg resort.— file PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD

With the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) having sealed 250 hotels for defaulting on setting up Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), clouds of uncertainty are hovering over the winter sports this season in the Kashmir valley.

Prominent hotelier and chairman of the coordination committee of the three key associations, including Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association, Faiz Ahmad Bakhshi said the hoteliers on Tuesday prepared a fresh case for constitution of a Division Bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court for early hearing of the matter. The hearing was otherwise slated in the first week of February.

“An unprecedented uncertainty has afflicted the tourism trade, ironically within days of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s revelation that one million tourists had visited the State in just 10 months this year. We have every respect for the law and the judiciary but we would seek answers to why the drive has been limited to the valley. What about Jammu, Katra and Patni Top where you have hundreds of hotels without the STPs? Are they not part of this State?” Mr. Bakhshi lamented.

Commercial operations of over 250 hotels in Kashmir have been frozen under the High Court’s orders issued during the hearing of a PIL. According to Mr. Bakhshi and the government officials, 140 hotels have been sealed here, 20 at Gulmarg and 90 at Pahalgam.

“The PCB drive spread a panic when Gulmarg was abruptly shut on September 27, followed by closure of hotels in Pahalgam and Srinagar. Many of the customers cancelled their bookings. Tourists were literally dragged out. This was instantaneously exploited by our competitors from Himachal Pradesh and other States. Consequently, the winter sports season, which usually commences at Gulmarg, stands spoiled,” Mr. Bakhshi asserted. “But we have full faith in our judiciary. We are hopeful of justice.”

Farooq Shah, Srinagar Deputy Commissioner, as well as Kashmir Director of Tourism Talat Parvez insisted that the PCB operation would have no negative bearing on tourism in the valley. “We have scores of hotels, guesthouses and houseboats functional in Srinagar. Our current availability of 15,000 rooms includes 4,000 rooms in nearly 1,000 houseboats. None of the hotels on the tourist hub of Boulevard has been shut,” Mr. Shah told The Hindu .

  • Why has the drive been restricted only to hotels in the valley: Bakshi

  • The drive was restricted to hotels operating more than 19 rooms in one structure: Shah

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