Lack of seriousness


Jammu and Kashmir has immense potential for eco-tourism but the same has largely remained untapped mainly because of non-serious approach in finalizing the draft policy, which has been rendered as merely a decorative piece for the website of the Department of Forest during the quite long time. This is notwithstanding the fact that eco-tourism potential can immensely benefit people by providing them livelihood opportunities.Not only the previous dispensations in Jammu and Kashmir even the present PDP-BJP Coalition Government has, on numerous occasions, claimed that much attention was being paid towards tapping the immense potential for eco-tourism, which provides basic framework for ecologically sustainable tourism with livelihood opportunities for local communities. Last year, Government got the draft of Eco-Tourism Policy prepared through Forest Department so that available potential is tapped in a planned way. Later, some modifications were carried out in the draft and accordingly the same was put in the public domain by posting it on the website of Forest Department for inviting comments and suggestions from stakeholders, Non-Governmental Organizations and departments.
It is a matter of concern that on one side the Government is coming up with one after another statement laying thrust on tapping eco-tourism potential and on the other side no serious attention is being paid towards finalization of Eco-Tourism Policy", sources regretted.
Most interesting aspect is that eco-tourism was included as one of the strategies in the J&K State Forest Policy 2011 and under its Section 4.13 steps have been explained to promote and popularize eco-tourism in the State. However, this aspect of the Forest Policy has largely remained un-implemented till date. Stating that without vision document eco-tourism potential cannot be tapped while protecting the aesthetic landscapes, sources said that in the draft of the policy strategy required to be adopted and activities which can be of immense help in promoting eco-tourism have been defined. Even the role of the Project Implementation Agencies has explicitly been defined in the draft. Activities like nature camps, home-stays and eco-friendly accommodation, trekking and nature walks, adventure sports and herbal eco-tourism etc have proposed. For identification of sites and development of facilities, the draft policy lays thrust on encouraging use of eco-friendly materials naturally available in the locality for construction, avoiding use of concrete structures and buildings at eco-tourism sites, providing appropriate facilities to meet the basic needs of stay of the tourists, promotion of renewable energy systems and water harvesting as far as possible and ensuring compliance with the provisions of J&K Forest (Conservation) Act while developing facilities in connection with eco-tourism.

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