A meadow that resonated with sound of heavy artillery for 52 years is set to turn into a destination for nature lovers. Two years after public pressure forced the Jammu and Kashmir government to not extend Tosa Maidan’s lease to the Army for its use as a firing range, the picturesque destination is open for tourists and trekkers.
Though officially thrown open by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last Sunday, the fear of unexploded mortar shells continued to haunt people with Mufti herself raising questions over the clearance operations in the erstwhile firing range. J-K government spokesman Naeem Akhtar Tuesday cleared the air in state legislature saying the area was “safe and secure” for civilian activity.
Officials said the meadow was the largest in Kashmir valley and it would be developed as a new destination for trekkers. “It is a huge area and we have restricted ourselves to some particular places. The area from Gatmarg to Gatabal would be used for trekking and, also there are zero chances of any unexploded shells along the route,” said Mehmood Shah, Director Tourism.
“There are two modes of staying in the area – either the tourists could have their own tents or they could stay in the kothas (huts) of the locals. There would be no concrete constructions in the area,” Shah told The Indian Express. “The kothas have to be refurbished and eco-intervention is also needed. We will engage consultants to develop them.”
With the government now declaring Tosmaidan safe and deciding to bring the meadow on the tourist map of Valley, the locals who in 2014 forced the state government to end its usage for military training want the government to employ community-driven rural tourism approach to develop the area.
“The suitable tourism model will help in eliminating poverty, creating more employment opportunities, empowering women and weaker sections, creating new skills, safeguarding forests and environment, self-sufficiency of villages and facilitating growth, of more justice and fair social order,” Maqbool Mir, General Secretary, Save Tosmaidan Front said in statement.