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Loss of Pangong Lake would mean end of tourism in Ladakh

Leh: The world's highest saltwater lake, Pangong Tsa has become one of the main conflict points in the India-China border dispute. Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) and Tour and Travel Association while speaking to Millennium Post in Leh said that Pangong Tso has become inaccessible since May and if it continues this way, tourism will be over in the Union Territory.

General Secretary of LBA, Sonam Dawa said, "The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been encroaching the border every year, this is not the first time. The localites who live near the border have been observing the gradual loss of pastoral land since there is no concrete wall separating the two nations."

Galwan Valley is barren land and tourists do not go there but Pangong Lake is the main attraction for a lot of tourists who come from the lower lands, he added. Nubra Valley is another popular tourist hotspot but does not have the same attraction as Pangong Tso.

"Loss of Pangong would mean loss of tourism, and tourism is what the 70 per cent of the population in Leh thrives on," he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Councillor (CEC) LAHDC Leh, Gyal P Wangyal, said, "Tourism is the backbone of the economy especially for the local. Due to the pandemic and border tension, people have cancelled booking that they had made earlier."

An official of Tour and Travel Association, Leh said that they are worried that if the portion of the lake which was accessible till May 5, becomes a permanent conflict zone, tourists will not want to go there.

"The entire lake may not be lost but if it becomes a tensed area with army patrolling constantly, civilians will not be allowed near it. Tourists would not want to go to an area that is under risk," he added. A retreat of around 3 km in Pangong Lake is unacceptable since it would mean a pullback from the area which has always been under Indian control, said the official.

The PLA and the Indian Army clashed on the north bank of the 134-km-long Pangong lake on May 5, 2020 with the PLA occupying the entire 8-km stretch from 'Finger-4 to Finger-8' (mountainous spurs along an 8 km stretch), and have built dozens of new bunkers and 'pill-boxes' in the area, which can be seen in satellite images.

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