Gulmarg’s Avalanche warning system lying defunct

Mir Iqbal

SRINAGAR, Feb 14: Days after an avalanche killed a tourist guide in the famous ski-resort, Gulmarg, and dozens of tourists had miraculous escape, major lapses have been found in avalanche warning system that was installed way back in 2011.
Sources said that the much needed project was installed in Gulmarg some four years back which was equipped with latest equipments to alert the administration about natural calamities like snow avalanches on time.
“The system was installed by the authorities to make timely interventions to avert the major tragedies like avalanches, snowstorm and other natural calamities,” sources said.
A tourist ski guide identified as Bashir Ahmad Bakshi, 28, died after he was buried in a snow avalanche last week at Apharwat hills trapping skiers and tourists also.
The deaths in avalanches in the resort have had skiers wary, slamming the GDA for failing to install the technical gadget system. Last year also, a foreign tourist was killed in a similar avalanche in the health resort, frequented by skiers from across the world during winter.
Considered as one of the highest warning systems in the world at an altitude of over 4000 meters above sea level, the project was first of its kind in State to ensure the safety of tourists and skiers in main Gulmarg, Kongdoori and Apharwat reaches.
The much-hyped warning system continues to be in doldrums as Government has failed to make it functional. “More than Rs 32 lakh have been spent on the project to procure costly equipments, including power backing system to ensure the functioning of the project even at tough times,” sources said.
Apart from acting as warning system, the project was supposed to provide round the clock Wi-Fi connectivity in Gulmarg. The project was conceived, designed and implemented by the network design team from Directorate of Information Technology and Support System (IT & SS), University of Kashmir with bandwidth being provided by Software Technology Park of India (STPI).
Although, the Directorate of IT&SS KU claimed that the project was completed in a record time of four months, but it has not been made functional yet.
Nazir Ahmad Mir, Chief Executive Officer, Gulmarg Development Authority admitted that the project was not working presently.
He said that the department couldn’t manage the huge expenses¬† including monthly rentals and service charges which run in lakhs of rupees. “We are re-launching the project in next few months not only to ensure functioning of warning system, but also Wi-Fi connectivity will be restored,” he said.
“For that we have recently convened a meeting with the aim to bring private hoteliers into the project, so that financial support can be taken from them,” Mir said.