On CM’s intervention, Patnitop aerial ropeway project crosses final hurdle

*Work to start after Cabinet nod within next some days

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Mar 9: In a major development, Patnitop aerial ropeway project, which was conceived by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during his first stint as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 2004, has crossed the final hurdle with Forest Advisory Committee approving it for execution. Interestingly, the process to obtain permission for axing 11 trees, which fall in the project area, consumed nearly 11 years.
The project aimed at attracting more tourists to the picturesque spot of Patnitop was approved during the meeting of the Patnitop Development Authority Board of Directors chaired by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in the month of January 2004 when he was Chief Minister in the People’s Democratic Party-Congress Coalition Government.
However, the project was not followed by the successive Governments with the required vigor and this can be gauged from the fact that foundation stone of the project was laid in May 2007, more than three years after its approval by the PDA Board.
Even after the laying of foundation stone hurdles continued to crop up in process of starting work on the project not only because of obtaining clearances from the concerned quarters but also due to non-seriousness of those who remained the Tourism Ministers during all these years.
The lack of interest in the project continued even after obtaining of necessary clearances from the required quarters and nod from the Apex Court of the country as thereafter Forest Department and Forest Advisory Committee slept over the project for quite long time despite the fact that their clearance was just a formality.
According to the sources, soon after taking over as Chief Minister of the State, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed issued specific directions to all the concerned authorities to ensure removal of hurdles in those projects, which assume much importance for tourism promotion particularly in Jammu region.
It was on the directions of Mufti Sayeed, who also holds Tourism portfolio, that the Forest Department completed the left over exercise vis-à-vis Patnitop aerial ropeway project and prepared the documents for the consideration of the Forest Advisory Committee.
The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in its 87th meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary this morning, approved the Patnitop aerial ropeway project falling in Udhampur Forest Division.
“Interestingly, the process for obtaining clearance to axe 11 trees, which fall in the project area, has consumed 11 years and project has crossed the final hurdle only on the intervention of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who had given approval to this project about 11 years back”, sources said.
They disclosed that now the decision of the Forest Advisory Committee will be placed before the State Cabinet in its forthcoming meeting and thereafter work will start on the project, which assumes much importance for attracting tourists to Patnitop especially when National Highway is being diverted by way of construction of tunnel between Chenani and Nashri. The aerial ropeway would help in keeping alive this tourist resort even after the opening of tunnel.
In response to a question, sources said that Hyderabad based company-Nagarjuna Construction Company Ltd, which has been entrusted the task of executing the project, will start work soon after the Cabinet nod, which is expected within next some days.
The company had earlier shown reluctance to mobilize its men and machinery required for start of work on the ropeway for want of clearance from the Forest Advisory Committee but now it will go ahead with the project. “The project would be completed within a period of one and half year from the date of start of the work”, sources said.
The Forest Advisory Committee also approved use of forest land for the completion of 1.65 MW Dadibal Mini-Hydel project in Anantnag Forest Division, 2 MW-Bultikalan Mini-Hydel project in Sindh Forest Division and 1.6 MW Rayil Mini Hydel Project, with directions from the Chief Secretary to ensure strict monitoring of muck dumping sites and safeguarding aquatic life by taking steps to allow fish passage.
The Committee also gave a nod to several PMGSY road projects falling in Nowshera, Reasi, Ramban, Mahore and Batote forest divisions.
The Chief Secretary directed PMGSY to take up the necessary protection works against soil erosion by constructing breast/retaining walls on the Kunga-Bhatni-Kothi Jageer road falling in Batote Forest Division.

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