A new input in popularized governance in our State is that of creating several Authorities under the umbrella of development of specific regions and spots generally connected with tourist industry. We have numerous Authorities with elaborate structure and manpower and equipment or funding to take care of the assignment given to them. In regard to tourism, broadly speaking the assignment is to make the tourist spots and destinations more attractive and provide more facilities to the tourists as we consider tourism as the mainstay of our economy. Thus we have Patnitop Development Authority, Pahalgam Development Authority, and Sanasar-Mansar Development Authority etc. It sounds good to have these Authorities as components of economic or tourism development objectives.
However, the question is how far these Authorities have been able to deliver the goods? Have these been really effective in improving overall facilities for the tourists? Have these been effective in maintaining and even improving the ecological purity of these destinations? Have these authorities been able to stop encroachment and illegal constructions at tourist spots especially in areas where fresh construction is forbidden by law? These and many more questions arise when we cast a glance at the delivery of these authorities. We do not find a satisfactory answer to these questions. There is hardly a fortnight when we do not in these columns touch upon the issues of tourist destinations and the shortcomings with which these are faced day in and day out.
Mansar and Surinsar are two prestigious lakes of Jammu region located in a picturesque environment. Both of these lakes enjoy religious sanctity and the tradition of devotees coming to pray or bathe in their waters continues down to this day. Though, the authority has been created yet the ground situation is that Mansar is reported to have become the garbage dumping spot in the area thus polluting its otherwise clean waters. All the refuse of the town and the Wild Life Sanctuary pours into the lake and thus polluting the water. Mansar waters have shrunk at least by four feet because the so-called Authority takes no steps to preserve its pristine purity. It was claimed that since there was no good connectivity to the lakes and a road had to be built before the Authority could take any steps towards preservation and protection of the lakes. It is now known that the road has been constructed but the fate of the two lakes is hanging in balance. Despite repeated requests and exhortations by the local MLAs since one decade in the past when the authority came into being, nothing moves and if the condition remains as it is these two lakes which could be called the prestigious water bodies of Jammu will become extinct not to speak of turning into cherished tourist spots. Even the project of boating in the Mansar that was announced with fanfare has not taken place. The people of the locality said that the Government has almost abandoned the lakes and there is no hope of recovery unless something miraculous happens. Actually, since so many agencies of the Government are involved, no one agency takes the full responsibility of taking care of these lakes. The CM, who chaired the Governing Body meeting of the Surinsar -Mansar and Billawar -Duggan Tourism Development Authorities last year, had issued directives of raising eco friendly cottage structures at tourist places which can easily get with the local ecology and avoid concretization of these fragile zones. She said the Surinsar could easily be co-opted into MICE Tourism (holding of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions and Events) given its proximity with the capital city. No heed has been paid to these instructions.
Though, there has been regular demand that the development of these lakes should take place on the pattern of Dal Lake but no Government agency is prepared to make any commitment and thus the lake is left to its destiny. This is a great loss to Jammu tourism and the tall claim that the Government is meeting out equal treatment to all the three regions is not substantiated by the ground situation.