Bangus beckons

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Mir Tanveer

ONE of the relatively unknown areas of Kashmir with vast tourism potential is the valley of Bangus.

Lying within the trans-Himalayan area, Bangus is a unique ecological combination comprising a mountain biome, which includes grassland biome with flora at lower altitudes; and Taiga or coniferous forest. The valley that lies at an altitude of around 10,000 ft. above sea level is in the northern part of District Kupwara within the Handwara sub- district. Occupying an estimated area of 300 sq kms (20×15 kms) the principal valley, locally known as Bodh Bangus (Big Bangus), consists of a linear elliptical bowl aligned along the east-west axis.

The valley is surrounded by Rajwar and Mawar in the east, Shamasbury and Dajlungun Mountains in the west and Chowkibal and Karnah Guli in the north. A smaller valley known as Lokut Bangus (Small Bangus) lies on the north-eastern side of the main valley. Both the valleys have level green meadows surrounded by low-lying mountains covered with dense coniferous forests (budloo) and a stream flowing through them.

In the valley of Bangus, enthusiasts get lost in the captivating and mesmerising view all around. But when we look at the other aspect of the valley in the Kashmir tourism map, we find it one among the underdeveloped and unexplored meadows of Kashmir whose tourism potential has not been showcased to the natural and adventurous activity-loving tourists from within Kashmir as well as those from outside.

In Bangus valley, we witness the seasonal shepherds and tribal communities staying there with their flocks for a few months in summers for the purpose of grazing. Besides this, local trekkers and adventurists are seen here, with the least number of visitors from outside areas.

There is an immense tourism potential here of developing as one of the best adventure-oriented meadows that can offer trekking, mountaineering and camping to tourists. Here, if a good infrastructure were to be built, a tourist could spend days across the vast green carpeted meadows. Here fields like that of Gulmarg and Pahalgam could be developed if the administrative machinery, in collaboration with the Tourism department of J&K, were to decide to take on developmental initiatives to promote this place as a new tourist destination for Kashmir tourism.

Besides this, the Bangus valley, due to its pristine landscapes and captivating dense forests and mountains could also attract filmmakers. If they are provided permission and accessibility, movies and songs could be shot here.

Also, thanks to its rich biomass, researchers of life sciences interested in studying different medicinal plants and flowers, could also find a niche in this area for developing medicinal plants and research zones, which, in the long run, could help discover new plant species for making different medicines for the pharmaceutical industry.

A rich bird life featuring different species here in the Bangus valley can also attract bird lovers. Bird photography in this area can also be very promising.

Talking to some tourists here reveals that indeed, this place is among the most unexplored meadows in the Kashmir valley and which certainly needs to be promoted as a new tourist destination.

In fact, Kashmir’s own tourists are not fully aware of its tourist potential. The administrative machinery needs to build facilities like proper washrooms, parking zones, marketing avenues and accessibility through improved networking facilities so that any tourist visiting this place doesn’t have to face any kind of inconvenience.

A local, while talking to KC, shares, “Bangus arrived late on the tourist map of Kashmir. It was an underdeveloped region a couple of years back but now the administration shows huge interest in developing it along the lines of Gulmarg. There were no roads and hotels earlier. And people reach Bangus without any interruptions today and the roads leading to Bangus have been widened and macadamised. New hotels are coming up and eateries are running throughout the arteries leading to Bangus. This will boost tourism and will be a source of livelihood to the people of the area”.

The Bangus Development Authority needs to build a proper waste disposal unit in this highly eco-sensitive area so as to minimise chances of trash the tourists might leave during their explorations and ensure that the beauty and landscape of this area stays free of any kind of pollution.

Proper dustbins need to be placed and awareness initiatives need to be taken for the maintenance of this place so that we don’t lose its pristine beauty to human greed and turn it into a dump of polythene bags in the desire to see it as a tourist paradise. Keeping the balance and strictly maintaining its ecology are major prerequisites.

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