Houseboats awaiting business in Dal Lake Srinagar
Houseboats awaiting business in Dal Lake Srinagar

SRINAGAR — Jammu and Kashmir government is mulling to re-open tourist spots and gardens across Union Territory soon as hectic deliberations are on to frame Standard Operating Procedure (SoPs) for smooth entry of people.

This will be for the first time that the tourist spots will be thrown open after the outbreak of pandemic—COVID-19.

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LG’s Advisor Baseer Khan said he has recently chaired a meeting to look into the possibility of re-opening tourist spots. “We have started work on framing SoPs for throwing open tourist spots across J&K,” the LG’s Advisor said.

“Thorough deliberations are going on over the issue,” he said, adding that the final decision is expected over the issue soon.

The LG’s Advisor, however, said there would be country-wide SoPs for re-opening of tourist destinations.

Reliable sources said that once the country-level SoPs would be doled out, the J&K administration would discuss the same and decide whether there was a need for any modification.

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On March 14, J&K government had announced closure of schools, parks, picnic spots a week ahead of the pandemic outbreak in Kashmir.

A senior official in the Tourism department said that since industry has borne the brunt of the situation in Kashmir and needs an immediate push, re-opening of tourism spots in Kashmir will help revive the industry.

“SoPs are in an initial stage. Re-opening of picnic spots and gardens in Kashmir will take place in the weeks ahead for sure,” he said, adding, “There would be detailed deliberations with all the Tourism stakeholders including Shikarawalas, houseboat owners, hotel and restaurant owners etc before the final announcement would be made.”

Pertinently, the Tourism industry of Kashmir is on the verge of collapse as it has received a severe jolt since August 05 last year when the Government of India asked all tourists and pilgrims to vacate Kashmir. While all eyes were set on this year’s tourism season, COVID played a spoilsport.

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“We are ready to follow all SoPs. Let the government announce opening of tourist spots in Kashmir including Srinagar. We will ensure strict implementation of SoPs and guidelines. We are on the verge of starvation and our families are suffering too,” Wali Muhammad, Kashmir Shikara Walas Association president said.

He said if things don’t improve in the weeks ahead, time is not far that there would be no Shikara in the famous Dal Lake. “Many of us have already sold boats just to survive. We haven’t seen any tourists since last year. Tourists are our main source of livelihood. No tourist means no earning,” he said.

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