Bring it on G-20, Srinagar’s ready!
Srinagar waits, with bated breath, for the G-20 summit for the working group of the tourism sector, starting May 22. The venue and the City’s varied highlights, stand like a newly dressed bride, with every service and facility in place.
by Bashir Assad
THE makeover of the Srinagar city under Srinagar Smart City Program is almost complete and the summer capital is all set to host the high-profile working group meeting of tourism delegates from the G-20 nations on May 22.
• Buoying up the SKICC
The preparations are in full swing and the minutest details are being worked out for the smooth conduct of the international event being organised in Srinagar for the first time after the events of August 5, 2019. The venue – Sher-e-Kashmir International Convocation Centre (SKICC), on the banks of Dal Lake, is being embellished like a bride. As per government sources, Rs. 7.5 crore have been spent on the renovation of SKICC to make it of international standards. Refurbishing and digitisation are the main highlights of the government spending on SKICC, a senior government official tells this scribe. SKICC, it merits a mention here, is the only high-end convocation centre of the government in the Kashmir valley which hosts events of international standards. Its location is the most appropriate one. Located on the banks of the Dal Lake, the SKICC presents a mesmerising view. From the security point of view too, it is the ideal location for such high-profile events. Manning and managing the security at SKICC has never been a challenge.
• Sprucing up & embellishments all around
The beautification of Gupkar Road leading to SKICC is near completion. Tiling of the footpaths along Gupkar Road and Boulevard Road has been completed and cleaning of the roads and pedestals is underway as we file this report.
The world famous Dal Lake has never looked as clean, at least in the last three decades, as it is today. A massive drive was undertaken to clean the aquatic weeds and algae from the Lake. Weeds and algae had proliferated and engulfed a large area of the Lake along the Nishat Bund and Foreshore Road, taking away from the aesthetic beauty of the world-famous water body and it was also posing a great threat to the flora and fauna. The Lake was narrowed down to a stream near the SKICC itself. It had earned a bad name for filthy waters, floating weeds and shrinking dimensions. Though the LG administration had seriously initiated cleaning drives in the last two years, however, this season, the drive was massive, courtesy the G20 Working Group Meeting in the last week of May.
The Dachigam National Park on the Srinagar outskirts is being upgraded and the hutments there are refurbished which could be used to host the delegates. Srinagar’s top hotels, including the Taj Vivanta and the Lalit Grand Palace have been booked for the delegates.
• Services & facilities revved up
The Srinagar Airport road is being given a new landscaped look and the flyovers painted. The UT administration has set up a special medical task force with advanced life-support mobile ambulances stationed at the venues and en route to Gulmarg, Baramullah and Srinagar. Gigantic welcome boards and signage are being erected in Gulmarg. The road to Gulmarg from Srinagar, the Narbal-Gulmarg stretch, is being spruced up and given a new look.
• Precursor to Leadership Summit & more
Talking to Kashmir Central, a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs says that the Srinagar G-20 Summit is a precursor to the G-20 Leadership Summit. “It is a diplomats’ event. The diplomats of G-20 member states would participate in the event besides some special invitees at the diplomatic level,” the official says adding that the meeting of the Working Group on Tourism of G-20 member states in Srinagar will be followed by a ministerial summit followed by the grand G-20 Leadership Summit in New Delhi later in September. He says that at the culmination of the Srinagar Summit, the Working Group on Tourism would formulate recommendations on the Tourism sector to the G-20 Ministerial group. The senior MEA official says that the Srinagar event is one among the many events happening all over the country in almost all states and union territories.
The SKICC is fully prepared to host the event. Talking to Kashmir Central, Director SKICC, Bakshi Javed Humayun says that the G-20 Srinagar Summit has great significance. “Though we keep hosting high profile events, the G-20 is a historic one which could help us in a great way to give impetus to the tourism sector,” says Javed adding that the face-lifting of the International Convocation Centre is almost complete and ready to host the historic event. Answering a question, Javed says that it is hoped that the negative advisories issued from time to time by some G-20 members would be revoked, once they feel the peace in Kashmir. Javed says that the countries that keep issuing negative advisories to their citizens are actually missing out on Kashmir. “They are missing out on what God has bestowed us with. Let them enjoy the beauty of Kashmir, they would change their mind,” hopes Javed.
Director SKICC says that Kashmir has been on the tourist map since centuries and continues to be the number one tourist destination in the world. He says that the G-20 Working Group event is close to their hearts as there are huge expectations associated with the event. “Kashmir is the crown of the incredible India and the G-20 event is the recognition of our hospitability, ethos and traditions,” says he adding “we are trying to provide a home-like environment to the visiting dignitaries. Though the centre is of international standards already, we have augmented the infrastructure to offer the best to the visiting dignitaries”.
“This event, being a historical one, will surely have a global impact for positioning our MICE infrastructure as of global standards which is a niche segment of tourism and the delegates being from economically good profiles, will benefit from the multiple allied sectors of handicrafts, cuisine, horticulture etc. We are sure that after the record-breaking tourist arrivals in the last few years, we will have maximum utilisation of our MICE tourism facilities,” says Shehnawaz A Shah, head, Marketing and Public Relations, SKICC. He adds that they will soon have a conference of the organisers from the South East Asia and SAARC to use the MICE tourism infrastructure.
A senior officer in the J&K Tourism Department tells this scribe that they are expecting to host over a 100 non-ministerial members representing the G-20 nations. “It’s a tourism stakeholders’ meeting and will give a boost to J&K’s tourism prospects too,” says the senior officer.
On the other hand, Tourism, Culture, Hospitality and Protocol, Works and Jal Jeevan Departments, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA) are putting all their efforts to provide logistics for the international grand event. The Srinagar city wears a festive look. The city has been witnessing unprecedented face-lifting and preparations in the wake of the G20 event.
• High on security
Meanwhile, elaborative security arrangements have been put in place for a smooth conduct of the international event. “We have made all the security arrangements. There will be three-tier security. Anti-drone equipment is being set-up. We are taking the help of the NSG and the Army for the same. For the water body – Dal Lake – we will depute MARCOS. And a police team will also be there. We will conduct the meeting smoothly and successfully,” promises ADGP, Kashmir Vijay Kumar as quoted by a local news agency QNS.