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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kashmir gets a dream ropeway - The Hindu

Kashmir gets a dream ropeway - The Hindu

Kashmir gets a dream ropeway at Koh-e-Maraan

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR (December 23, 2013): Twenty-five years after the authorities conceived the Valley’s first ropeway and created the Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation [JKCCC] to boost tourism at Gulmarg, Kashmir got its second tourist-carrier on Monday. Three Ministers of Omar Abdullah’s government— Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Mian Altaf Ahmad and Ali Mohammad Sagar­— dedicated the 594-metre monocable ropeway in an ambience of enthusiasm to the residents of Srinagar.

Minister of Environment Mian Altaf said that the Rs 6.50-crore ropeway would ferry devotees, particularly the aged and infirm, daily from the sprawling Malkhah cemetery to the revered saint Sultanul Aarifeen Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom’s shrine and back. The 16th century saint’s splendid shrine is resting on the foothills of Koh-e-Maaraan [the hillock of the snakes], commonly known as Hari Parbat, overlooking the old city.

Valley’s largest Gurudwara Chhattipadshahi as also the Kashmiri Pandits’ spiritual rendezvous of Sharika Devi —seat of the 18-armed goddess Sharika Bhagwati, the presiding deity of Srinagar city— are both on the foothills. Mughal emperor Akbar and his successors had set up the capital Naagar Nagar around the same hillock where the festival of Badamwari was an annual feature of the spring celebrations until 1980s. Akbar’s fort, now in dilapidated condition and occupied by paramilitary forces, is the highest viewing point over the city.

JKPCCC Managing Director Tufail Matoo told The Hindu that the Makhdoom Sahib ropeway had been planned in the thick of a street turmoil in 2010. Its commercial operation missed several deadlines but finally became a reality. With eight celluloid-body cabins, four incoming and four outgoing, it will carry 16 passengers either way, for a return journey at Rs 100 each. “We are expecting 1,500 passengers and revenue of Rs 1.50 lakh every day”, Mr Matoo said. Each cabin has the capacity for four passengers.

Mr Matoo said that ropeways were high financial viability ventures in tourist States like Jammu and Kashmir. With an investment of around Rs 30 crore, JKPCCC commissioned Asia’s highest and the longest (4.9 km) and the world’s second highest altitude ropeway, Gulmarg Gondola in May 2005, seven years after completion of its phase-1. “With 6.70 lakh visitors, it fetched us Rs 34 crore in 2012. This year, over 6 lakh tourists have enjoyed a ride on Gondola from Gulmarg to Apharwat (13,400 ft) and the revenue has crossed Rs 32-crore mark”, Mr Matoo said. From January 1st week, Gondola would mostly carry the skiing enthusiasts from all over the world to the famous alpine slopes of Kongdori and Apharwat.