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AJK to Promote Ecotourism in Scenic Neelum Valley

October 12, 2023

MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) administration plans to develop eco-tourism through a private-public partnership in tourist-rich areas, particularly the gorgeous Neelum valley to the northeast of the state capital.

This was said by Dr Khalid Mahmood Chauhan, AJK’s newly appointed secretary of tourism and archaeology, during his first meeting with government officials and tourism industry representatives in Athmuqam, the district headquarters of Neelum.

“Neelum Valley has been blessed with rich tourism potential, which we have to maintain zealously by conserving its environment and supporting and strengthening the well-being of its people through varied initiatives under a public-private partnership,” the governor remarked at the time.

Mr Chauhan emphasized the importance of both short and long-term planning to revitalize the tourism industry, and he urged the authorities involved to adopt the decisions made from time to time to achieve this goal without fear or favour.

In this regard, he stated that the prohibition on haphazard buildings at tourist spots, notably along the banks of the Neelum River and other water channels, should be strictly enforced in both letter and spirit.

Aside from that, he continued, the authorities should guarantee that the permitted development is being carried out in compliance with the applicable standard operating procedures (SOPs) and building codes. The secretary requested that the civic entities in Neelum fulfil their responsibility in terms of providing basic civic amenities to visitors.

Proper sanitation arrangements and an effective waste disposal system should be ensured with the collaboration of the Private Tourism Association, he said.

Mr Chauhan also urged them to launch awareness campaigns against the use of plastic bottles, shopping bags, and other polythene-made items to maintain the area’s natural environment.

The meeting also went over the mechanism for collecting and disposing of tourist taxes, the construction of hiking trails to preserve natural beauty, the immediate completion of under-construction camping pads in Keran and Upper Neelum village, the patchwork of the link road stemming from the main road in Keran and leading to Upper Neelum village and beyond, the construction of water supply schemes, the installation of a sewerage system, and the construction of a sewage system.

The implementation of the necessary SOPs to regularize the construction of guesthouses, the installation of CCTV cameras, and the supply of uninterrupted internet facilities were also considered.

Mr Chauhan said that the data of guesthouses in Neelum should be compiled and computerised to facilitate access to information required by tourists.

“In order to keep Neelum clean, all stakeholders should not only run awareness campaigns regarding cleanliness but also ensure effective cleaning arrangements at the tourist spots on a daily basis,” he said.

He said an information desk should be made functional at the valley’s entry point, apart from putting in place an effective checking regime in the interest of visitors but without causing them inconvenience.

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