Millennium Post

When the snows beckon

When the snows beckon

Beginning Monday, many tourist hot spots in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Kashmir witnessed a fresh round of rain and snowfall resulting in the minimum temperature plummeting to sub-zero levels. In Himachal Pradesh, Keylong district was reported to be the coldest of all with a temperature of -3.3 degree Celsius earlier this week. Manali and Kalpa followed Keylong with -1.2 degree Celsius and -0.8 degree Celsius respectively. The temperature in Shimla also dropped to 3.3 degree Celsius and the popular tourist destination is likely to receive more rainfall during the week. Most of the popular tourist towns like Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Palampur, and Manali are likely to get more rainfall, while Kalpa and Chitkul in Kinnaur, and Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district might get more snowfall, said the meteorological department. The temperature in Dharamshala was recorded 8.8 degree Celsius.

Most of Kashmir, too, have received rain or snow since Monday leading to the closure of many roads. Incessant snowfall has badly damaged the apple crop in the state and led the government to declare it a state-specific 'natural calamity'. Following heavy snowfall in the higher reaches, officials in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir have been advised by snow and avalanche experts in the Home Ministry to closely monitor the situation and keep the ministry informed. Officials in Kashmir Valley also issued a low-danger avalanche warning for seven districts, after fresh snowfall in the higher reaches of Bandipora, Baramulla, Anantnag, Kulgam, Budgam, Kupwara, and Ganderbal districts. People in these districts have been asked not to go to avalanche-prone areas.

With the onset of winter, some of India's best tourist destinations located in the lap of the majestic Himalayas and other mountain ranges are back in their full glory. Media reports and visuals from the recent spate of snowfall bring an irresistible variety of nature's beauty in the mystic mountains. From snow-laden trees to common folks going about their slow-paced daily chores in a landscape completely covered in white snow, the first of the season, is breathtaking and mesmerising, to say the least. As per media reports, most of these places have started receiving tourists whose number would go up as the winter progresses. Hoteliers and others associated with the tourism industry are back in business and there is hope and happiness on their faces as they welcome the tourists who are trickling in. In an advertisement, Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) has invited tourists to Maharana Pratap Sagar, also known as Pong Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake, the highest earthfill dam in India on the Beas River in the wetland zone of the Siwalik Hills of the Kangra district. In the advertisement, HPTDC reminds the tourists, both domestic and foreign, that 'a number of bird species cover thousands of miles from their natural habitat across continents to see you; where are you?' The picture in the advertisement shows exotic bird flocks in thousands during their flight over the pristine and calm lake waters even as the rising morning sun illuminates the surrounding in an enigmatic golden hue — a soul-satisfying experience.

Due to the policymakers' obsession with higher GDP and the ways it can further be revved up, the country has not able to focus on informal sectors of the economy like tourism that not only generate the highest number of employment but also celebrate local culture and heritage and keep them in demand, safeguarding them from extinction. If we look at the number of star tourist destinations that the country boasts, it is not difficult to surmise that India has not been able to market them to their full potential. We have not been able to install an adequate number of rope-ways to link famous temples sitting at mountain peaks, nor have we been able to build mountain rail networks where tourist trains can be deployed. The infrastructure for adventure sports, a key revenue stream in the tourism business, is almost non-existent. There is a tremendous scope for growth and expansion in adventure sports facilities in these tourist destinations in the mountains in areas such as mountaineering, kayaking, river-rafting, paragliding, and sledging. But the Indian tourism industry has not evolved into a niche market, where the potential of the industry could be tapped optimally. As the season's first snowfall transforms the higher reaches of the mountains into a divine land, the policymakers need to revisit their strategy to make tourism more popular and affordable in the country.

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