Snow bikes, scooters pose threat to ecology in Gulmarg

ATV cars being used in Gulmarg. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
ATV cars being used in Gulmarg. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Adil Lateef

Srinagar, Jan 1: The increasing number of snow bikes, snow scooters and ATV cars are posing a grave threat to the star tourist attraction and one of the preferred skiing destinations in World, Gulmarg, in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district with tourism stakeholders urging Government to take steps for curbing the increase.
Over the past few years, the Tourism Department introduced snow scooters and bikes for tourists in Gulmarg, which remains under a thick blanket of snow in winters and abuzz with activities of domestic and foreign skiers. Though these bikes and scooters, which ply over the icy slopes of Gulmarg, make tourists jubilant but it is also posing threat to the fragile ecology.
The snow scooters, bikes and ATV cars run on petrol and the smoke emanating poses threat to the ecology. In past few years, the Gulmarg has received less snowfall compared to what it used to receive and the local tourism stakeholders partly blame it to the smoke which coming out of these bikes and cars.
There are nearly 100 snow scooters, snow bikes and ATV cars at present plying in Gulmarg, and as per the stakeholders they are proving disastrous for the ecology after rampant constructions.
“We appeal Government to increase tourism, not pollution in Gulmarg and save this place. The constructions have already doomed Gulmarg and now these bikes and cars are playing their role in destroying this place. The government should stop its increase and it would have been much better if these cars and scooters are closed down,” said Fareed Ahmad, the driver of an ATV Car.
The drivers of these ATV cars, which are 20 in number, were earlier ponny walas and these cars were provided to them on subsidy. “The actual cost of the ATV car is Rs. 9 lakh and we were provided Rs. 4 subsidy. One person is charged Rs. 400 per kilometer and right now there is 50% discount,” they said, but appeared to be concerned about the ecology of the Gulmarg.
Acknowledging the threat posed, the Director Tourism Kashmir, Mehmood A Shah said they are restricting the increase in snow scooters and bikes. “We are restricting them and we are not giving any more permission… But then you have to have minimum facilities available (for the tourists). The decibel level is very high and you need to regulate this,” he told Excelsior.
The Director Tourism said that the department will introduce Battery Operated Vehicles (BOVs). The BOV use chemical energy and it derive all power from its battery packs and thus has no internal combustion engine, fuel cell or fuel tank. “We will introduce them soon,” he said.