Much-hyped boating in Ujh, Chenab, Thein dam remains a non-starter

*Flimsy grounds taken to delay recreational activity
Tourism promotion in Jammu a victim of slack approach

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Nov 2: Notwithstanding much hype created from time to time about putting in place adequate infrastructure for recreational activities, boating in Ujh barrage, Chenab river and Thein dam has remained non-starter even after completion of ground work mainly due to non-serious approach of those at the helm of affairs in the Tourism Department. Ultimately, tourism promotion in Jammu region has become a casualty despite having immense potential for the same.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that from time to time announcements were made by the Government about start of recreational activities wherever possible in Jammu region in order to attract sizeable number of tourists and accordingly some steps were also initiated. However, non-serious approach and slackness of the concerned authorities created road-block in translating the plans into reality.
Quoting an example, they said that in the month of January this year the River Tawi Irrigation Complex (RTIC) had granted permission to the Chief Executive Officer of the Lakhanpur Sarthal Development Authority for start of boating in Ujh barrage on certain conditions.
In the permission, it was mentioned that the average boating area will be three hectares with an average depth of 1 meters water and watch and ward and cleanliness of the water body will be the responsibility of the applicant and at any point of time if RTIC feels that the cleanliness/sanitation clause is not implemented fully, the RTIC will be at liberty to get the area of water body and its surroundings cleaned at the cost and risk of the applicant.
“All the safety measures as per J&K Adventure Tour Guidelines shall be strictly adhered to by the applicant”, read the permission, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR.
However, despite lapse of 10 months the boating in Ujh barrage has remained non-starter without any plausible reason, sources said, adding “the non-serious approach in start of recreational facility is notwithstanding the the fact that Ujh can become a source of attraction for the tourists”.
Similar is the fate of plans about start of boating in Thein Dam despite the fact that after construction of Atal Setu Bridge at Basohli, reservoir has become the hub of visitors from all parts of the country, sources said, adding boating was started in the dam but without following safety measures which compelled the Additional Deputy Commissioner Basohli to constitute a committee of officers in the month of July last year.
The committee made several recommendations like registration of boats with competent authority authorized for the purpose, deployment of SDRF team, provision of life saving jackets for tourists, notification of area of operation in consultation with dam authorities and third party insurance of tourists.
On the basis of these recommendations, the Bani-Basohli Development Authority was asked to regulate the operation of boats/streamers in River Ravi at Basohli before September 10, 2019 and ensure strict compliance to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Water Sports.
However, the Bani-Basohli Development Authority failed to ensure strict compliance to the recommendations of the committee and guidelines of the Union Ministry and ultimately Additional Deputy Commissioner Basohli on October 10, 2020 directed the authority not to allow any illegal operation of boats so that safety of the visitors is not compromised.
Similarly, Assistant Director Tourism Katra had recommended six cases for grant of permission for river rafting at Baradari in Reasi on commercial lines as per the Adventure Guidelines.
After completion of necessary formalities, the Directorate of Tourism Jammu in the month of October this year approached the Administrative Department for issuance of necessary notification of stretch of River Chenab so that while water rafting could be made a regular phenomenon on commercial lines by adopting a transparent bidding mechanism.
However, till date no notification has been issued by the Tourism Department, sources said, adding “the delay is notwithstanding the fact that National Institute of Water Sports, Goa in its report submitted in the year 2011 had recommended the stretch of river Chenab suitable for river rafting”.
The stretch is Talwara-Baradari-Dera Baba Banda Bahadur-Akhnoor. The regular white water rafting will not only generate employment but also contribute to economy of the Union Territory.
When contacted, a senior officer of the Tourism Department, while wishing anonymity, admitted that boating and white water rafting has yet not been started in these places. He, however, expressed ignorance about delay in taking final decision on the part of the Administrative Department.