Tosamaidan… let it not meet the fate of Gulmarg & pahalgam

With Chief Minster Mehbooba Mufti announcing a separate development authority for    Tosamaidan, the place known for military drill base until recent past is now bound to find its place on the world tourism map. The beautiful lush green meadow is one of the most mesmerizing natural attractions for tourist and has the huge potential of leisure and adventure tourism alike.

Tosamaidan used to be an artillery firing range for Indian army till recent past. The credit for throwing this place open to public goes to chief minister of J&K Mehbooba Mufti as well as ex-CM of J&K Omar Abdullah who did not extend it’s lease which was due in April 2014. The credit also goes equally to known RTI activist Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat who filed a petition before National Green Tribunal (NGT) after raising his concern about Tosamaidan.

 This place was handed over to army for firing drill exercise by the government of Jammu and Kashmir on forty years lease period in 1964. After the lapse of the lease in 2004, the then Mufti Syed government extended it for another ten years. However, the things took a U-turn in 2014 when then Chief Minster Omar Abdullah showed reluctance to extend the lease owing to public outrage and concern raised  by environmentalists. The issue then snowballed into a controversy bringing government and locals at logger heads leaving no option for Omar Abdullah but to refuse the extension of lease. The Army also had probably realized the local concerns and the confrontation they were slowly being dragged in, hence decided to retrieve, asking government to identify an alternate place for the firing range.

The evacuation of land by army has opened window for state government particularly the tourism department to develop the meadow as a prime tourist destination. And now, when Chief Minster has announced a development authority, the availability of funds should possibly not be an obstacle for tourism department in developing the site. But one must also be cautious that this too should also not meet the fate of Gulmarg and Pahalgam where the corporate mafia is ruling the roost, and the green standing trees being raised to ground overnight to free space for hotel constructions. This place must be protected form the encroachments and vandalization from corporators and developed as an attractive eco-friendly tourist destination in real senses. Tosamaidan development would be a great challenge for the Tourism department and it would be interesting to note if the department was really sincere to develop the meadow for tourism or leave it free for corporators to turn it a concrete jungle like Gulmarg and Pahalgam. This green asset has been reclaimed not for hoteliers, politicians and bureaucrats but for tourism.Therefore, Let it be allowed to develop as a Tourism destination only.