Umaisar Gull Ganie
Srinagar, Jun 20: While the number of foreigners visiting Kashmir has gone down considerably but the footfall of domestic tourists is surging. .
Official data suggests that 657808 people visited 31 Mughal gardens of Kashmir. Of them, 312 were international tourists, 421631 were nationals and 235861 were locals.
Mughal Garden Nishat has seen a total of 121049 visits with 96466 domestic tourists and 24500 locals and 83 foreigners in April and May.
The total number of visits to the Shalimar garden stood at 77796, with the number of foreign tourists at 83. The number of Indian visitors to Shalimar garden was 66931. The number of locals who visited the Mughal Garden in Srinagar was 10842.
5478 locals, 51996 Indian tourists, and 27 foreign nationals visited the Cheshma Shahi garden in Srinagar.
The official records show that south Kashmir gardens, once the hotspot of tourist activities, are witnessing a low footfall of tourists, which locals say is a result of plenty of factors including the callousness and the “step-motherly” attitude of administrators towards the region.
However, the officials of the Floriculture Department outrightly denied the claims and said that Anantnag is the second focal point of the Department. “We have nearly ten parks under the control of the Department. There were several issues that the Mughal gardens down south, however, the issues have been resolved,” he said.
The Department has installed lights and fenced the entire Verinag and Kokernag Mughal gardens. “In Achabal, we have repaired the fencing and installed lights in the garden. We are particularly focussing on the maintenance of the Mughal gardens,” he said.
Achabal, known to be one of the favourite gardens of the Mughal emperor, Jahangeer has had a total of 4622 visits- out of them, 4297 were locals. Only 325 Indians visited the Mughal garden located in south Kashmir’s Anantnag.
The Kokernag garden has had a total of 5604 visits. 4576 were locals, 1028 from Indian states, and zero foreign tourists. The Verinag garden famous for its spring has had a total of 4337 visits in the months of March and April. Out of the total number of visitors, 2342 were locals and 1995 from outside Jammu Kashmir.
The total number of visitors at Green Park in Srinagar’s Harwan has a number higher than any of them in south Kashmir. Out of a total of 6997 visits, 474 were from India, and one was a foreign national.
Lidder View Park in Pahalgam in the months of March and April has seen a total of 481 visits. Out of this total number, 150 are locals and 331 are from outside Jammu Kashmir. A total of 917 persons visited Lidder Park Pahalgam out of them 311 were locals and 606 Indian nationals.
“The Mughal gardens have been a centre of attraction. This is not the footfall of tourists in the valley. Many people do not visit the gardens which are under the maintenance of the Floriculture department, Farooq Ahmad Rather, the Director of the Floriculture Department Kashmir told KNO over the phone.
He said that six Mughal gardens in Jammu Kashmir are under the tentative list of UN’s World Heritage sites. The Government has prepared a dossier for the inclusion of several gardens of the valley in UNESCO’s heritage sites. “We are expecting the footfall of international tourists to improve if our demand for the inclusion of Gardens is approved,” he said.
“The administration has signed an MoU with the Jindal Group who have started repairing the Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar, but we are trying our best too to preserve and maintain the gardens in the region,” he said.