Obsolete Patnitop Plan

Since a long time, State Tourism Department has been eyeing Patnitop for development as a tourist destination in Jammu region. It would cater to local and national level tourists more than the foreign tourists. After all, with increase in income per capita in our State as a result of all round development, more people have the capacity of utilizing part of their income on recreation and holiday making. There has also been demand from the people of Jammu region for development of various places in this region as tourist spots. Patnitop falls on the National Highway-A1 was selected for the purpose. Patnitop Development Authority (PDA) was constituted in 1995 with the purpose of developing the Patnitop-Sanasar area as a tourist spot.
In 2011, PDA signed an agreement with a Hyderabad-based consultancy firm named Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT), to prepare a Master Plan for Patnitop Development. This Firm took many years for preparing the DPR. Obviously, the DPR specifically made a mention of some definite proposals/projects. On June 14, 2015, the then Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had announced several vital projects for Patnitop-Sanasar areas in order to attract more tourists to these hill resorts. He had even directed all the concerned authorities including Tourism Department and Patnitop Development Authority to immediately initiate process for formulation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) so that these projects could be taken up for implementation. The major decisions included electric train from Patnitop to Batote, Amusement Park on Sanasar-Patnitop road, water sports activities in reservoir of Baglihar Hydroelectric Project at Chanderkote, health and wellness tourism project at Patnitop, helipad on Sanasar road and above all expeditious completion of all formalities for notification of new Master Plan for Patnitop. This announcement had made it clear that PDP led Government was determined to see to the proper development of Patnitop-Sanasar tourism destination in all its manifestations. Identification of these projects created much hope among the people in the region and in Jammu as a whole that after long years of patient wait, Department of Tourism was ready to deliver goods in this respect.
However, when DPR was put in the public domain for inviting opinions, many new revelations came to light which showed that there were obstacles in the way which had to be cleared before the projects would take off. The original proposal of electric train between Patnitop and Batote has been dropped and it is said that the planners are now in favour of improved buses to run on this stretch instead of introducing electric train. It will be remembered that much time had been wasted in seeking the consent of the Forest Department for this train and when the approval came, the PDA has changed its mind. If cost element is the reason, why don’t the planners take that aspect into account? As regards Amusement Park on Patnitop-Sanasar Road, there is no space actually available. As far as the building of a helipad in Sanasar area is concerned, the identified patch of land is in the possession of nomads who are not willing to vacate it. Unless the Government takes steps of vacating that land and passing it on to the PDA, the helipad would not be available. Amusingly the DRP does not even give the khasra number of the land without which matter of acquiring cannot proceed.
The vital aspect of the recommendations was that a new Master Plan for Patnitop-Sanasar region needed to be formulated because the 20 year old Master Plan was obsolete and had outdated its purpose.  PDA has not been able to develop the region because of major mistakes in planning. Actually it has not been advised properly how the development of the region would come about in a planned manner. Now what is needed is a new plan after abandoning the previous plan. Besides waste of time the administration at various levels is showing no serious concern for taking any concrete step towards the development of the area. It is more of talk and little or no work on the ground. Unless the PDA takes concrete steps and has assured funding, no project can see the light of the day.

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