Welcome to Patnitop

Amidst trash and dilapidated roads

Sunny Dua
There is an adage that goes like ‘To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves’. In our case we had also been burning with a ‘desire’ to see Patnitop become most favoured destination of tourists and we made that happen as well but now that we have become ‘quiet’ about it’s upkeep that’s the greatest ‘punishment’ we are bringing to ourselves. The place which looks serene, calm and contentedly accessible in pictures and films or promotional advertisements actually doesn’t match any of those on ground.
The only best hill station within whose vicinity is living states who’s who is facing a sheer neglect. While Patnitop Development Authority (PDA) is levying taxes in the shape of entry on both sides of circular road, the road actually is in most dilapidated condition. To top this all two huge steel structures joined by a zip line have come up right in the middle of meadow at Padora Hills creating cacophony for those living in huts or visiting the place for its scenery, weather, trees or meadows.
Makeshift shops, vendors, weeds, abandoned shops, damaged structures, not so well painted huts and burnt and damaged pine trees all add to the mess created at the location. While plastic is understood to enemy of our ecology its littered everywhere. Soil erosion at different places is not being contained and in absence of any check people have started paring their vehicles in the meadows only to vandalise entire eco-system. In nutshell one can find anything at Padora Hills but not a decent washroom in absence of which both men and women ease themselves behind huts, trees and rotten tin structures.
While road to Boon Bari in Batote has been macadamised for many times where not even a single tourist ever visits, road to Patnitop welcomes you with craters, pits, mud, sinking road and broken parapets. Almost all hills of Patnitop, its meadows and lawns in front of huts and hotels have all been filled with trash that includes disposable plates, empty liquor bottles, empty packets of chips, empty plastic bottles of cold drinks and potable water besides trash littered by people after cooking their meals in this picturesque location. Broken parapets at several locations not only have worsened aesthetics but also reveal the ill will of PDA with which it is maintaining the resort.
Empty and abandoned garbage containers besides worn out vehicles of some departments have also been dumped all along the road leading to Padora Hills. The very first garden or small meadow right opposite Conference Hall wears a deserted look with flower beds in bad shape and trash littered everywhere. In absence of workforce which could keep a check on people’s behaviours of throwing trash anywhere or guiding them it has become a ‘free for all situations’ at the site. Added to this is absence of adequate washrooms resulting which people ease themselves behind huts, trees, in flower beds and anywhere else they find place.
Two art works installed at the Patnitop have badly been damaged. While on one of the artworks people have pasted bills another one has been damaged to a larger extent with no one really caring to restore it. Trees that have fallen in the middle of road, in jungle or in meadows have been made to stay there giving a look of hurricane hitting the picturesque location of Patnitop. To add to woes, scores of stray dogs despite fencing done by PDA roam around at each and every location like being in a safari. Since the breed belongs to Himalayan region these canines are dangerous and pose a threat to the visitors.
It’s very recently that a Cable Car project was inaugurated to add more facilities and attractions for tourists but road from Chenani to Sanget from where cable car actually takes off has not been built and it’s in most dilapidated condition as well. The physical features of this particular road match with that of circular road around Patnitop which is worn out and not macadamised since ages. Still worst is the entrance to Padora Hills that has been camouflaged by vendors with many of them having made their way into the main gate and lawns as well.
Abandoned shops and check posts that are rotting at the location have also neither been removed nor restored, if needed. Broken and damaged benches, faulty ornamental lights, broken grill work all along road and hap hazardous parking is another issue that’s chocking Patnitop. Stone steps that lead to different locations including Youth Hostel have lost ground and need to be brought back to even positions so that tourists ascending or descending don’t damage their limbs.
In totality it’s just a ‘run of the mill’ system that is making Patnitop, an important destination of district Udhampur, carry on with its routine work of receiving tourists amid trash, dilapidated roads, broken parapets and cacophony. Since National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has given Udhampur a direct access to Batote through Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, picturesque locations like Sanasar, Dudu, Patnitop or Sudhmahadev and Mantalai have started getting least attention.
Unfortunately, PDA established about 23 years ago and responsible for preserving, maintaining and protecting this destination located in Shivalik Hills located at an altitude of 2024 meters from mean sea level has put up pictures of broken stone paths in its website as well. The only contact number 01992-288146 given in the website developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC), Udhampur has been connected with a fax machine leaving no scope for tourists or others to contact officials. The website supports a total of five to six low quality pictures of Patnitop which have not been upgraded as well. Ever since its development the site doesn’t seem to have been maintained.
Now that tourist place is being thronged by millions every year and during all seasons, all those departments responsible for the development of this hill station need to be geared up so that the place is saved from ecological as well as man-made disaster. The way we all are contributing in adding trash to the hills and meadows of Patnitop days are not far off when the location will be beyond retrieve. The sooner we act the better it would be or else the place will become a commercial hub of everything that’s available in any metro city minus nature which is available here only.