The name of Dal Lake in Srinagar itself brings in a fresh whiff of air. The beautiful lake with its picturesque surroundings has attracted millions of tourists, a coveted tourist spot for Indians as well as foreigners.
In order to make it more tourist-friendly, the Indian government has decided to develop five villages in the Dal Lake area as tourist villages.
The Tourist Villages Development programme under the Mission Youth initiative, which aims at developing 75 villages having distinction in terms of scenic beauty, adventurous terrain, art and culture, history and archaeology, is gaining tremendous momentum with heavy tourist influx thronging the new destinations.
The villages to be covered under the programme are being selected on the basis of their rural tourism potential in consultation with the Tourism Department by an expert committee of Mission Youth, stated Aspire, a monthly newsletter covering government policies and initiatives.
It is important to note that the government started the movement of promoting homestay tourism in the UT by launching Panchari, a village in the Udhampur district with mesmerizing beauty as the first tourist village with homestays.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to develop five tourist villages within Dal Lake in Srinagar which included Kachri Mohalla, Sofi Mohalla, Tinda Mohallah, Akhoon Mohalla and a vegetable market. These villages will have all basic facilities for inhabitants as well as tourists and local visitors. These villages will also provide homestay facilities to tourists.
Dal Lake, the urban lake, is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is named the “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir” or “Srinagar’s Jewel”. The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting.
The initiative is destined to promote homestays across the Union Territory and will strengthen the rural economy in the region, turn youth into entrepreneurs besides empower women by offering them numerous opportunities for employment.
The lake covers an area of 18 square kilometres (6.9 sq. mi) and is part of a natural wetland, which covers 21.1 square kilometres (8.1 sq. mi), including its floating gardens. The floating gardens, known as “Raad” in Kashmiri, blossom with lotus flowers during July and August. The wetland is divided by causeways into four basins — Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin.
The government has launched this program to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of Independence under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav under the Mission Youth which will work towards giving a facelift to 75 villages that are already famous for their historical background, picturesque landscape and cultural importance.
According to Aspire, Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, had said that the administration will recognize the uniqueness of each village and showcase the landscape, foster the indigenous knowledge system and promote the cultural diversity and heritage of these villages.
“It has been learnt that the initiative has also been launched keeping in view the potential of J&K for film shooting purposes. The initiative is also aimed to promote shooting of films and offering financial aid to the villages for their sustainable development,” he said.
Sinha maintained, “All villages which are part of the initiative will also be provided with a digital footprint. This move is also aimed at providing maximum job opportunities to youth from different backgrounds and ensuring their participation in the policies that have an impact on their lives.”
“There are several regions in J&K which despite having greater tourism potential have not been able to garner requisite attention due to infrastructural bottlenecks. Destinations which lag behind in the sphere of tourism infrastructure can overcome the downsides by introducing home stays as a means of accommodation facilities for the tourists which do not require heavy investment,” he said.
According to reports, the government has asked for handholding of youth in those areas also it has directed officers of Handloom & Handicraft and Skill Development to establish skill training centres in these areas for imparting skill training to the educated youth of these hamlets in relevant trades.