Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bangus - a paradise awaiting demise?

"Fragile Paradise -Tourism plans threaten livelihoods and ecosystem in the Bangus plains."

When I read this headline caption in an article on the Frontline magazine, a strange emotion came over me. I happen to carry some beautiful memories of the time I spent in these serene "mountain plains", with a small and closely knit team of twenty energetic men.
I felt as if the gate to paradise, access to which until now had been restricted to a select few has been thrown open to all and sundry. Though I must confess to feeling oddly possessive, the main reason for my discomfort was knowledge of of the fact that the idyllic splendour of Bangus would soon give way to a tourist infested hot-spot.

Lokut Bangus ... as I saw it in October 2001.(This photograph was shot with a kodak point and shoot film camera).

It is near imossible to comprehend the Elysian uniqueness of this haven without having experienced it in person. I will however make an attempt to give a brief account of our stay there and the affect it had on us.

Our team was camping in a place called dudhi .... almost equidistant from the towns of Tangdhar, Kupwara and Handwara .. at an altitude of around 3200 metres. The only symbols of habitation there were a few "bahaks"or huts constructed with fallen deodhar logs, one of which served as our dwelling. Once... as we were sitting on a grassy spur casually studying the area from a map, we spotted a couple of elongated patches devoid of any contours. The fact that these plains were in high altitude, ignited my curiosity and we set out early morning the next day.

The first sight of bangus from an adjoining crest was breathtaking ..... the fatigue caused by three hours of climbing vanished in a moment.In front of us was a seemingly endless lush green valley ( a golfer's delight) ..... the gradient climbing gradually onto the neighbouring mountains. It seemed as if we were standing on the edge of a huge bowl ....the rim of which was marked by snow capped peaks and sides decorated with tall deodhar and pine trees.The gap between the tree line and snow was barren , giving the bowls a layered and organised look. The two major bowls in the area were called the Bod (big) Bangus and Lokud (small) Bangus. There was something in the air here, which made you forget your worries and captivate your consciosness. One has no option left, but to be in the present.

A few bahaks were lying dispersed .... one of which we saw was occupied. A teenaged sheperd was singing away in Kashmiri even while supervising the grazing cattle. During summers and the harvest seasons people from the neighbouring villages send their cattle to the mountains to graze, duly entrusted to a sheperd. Some families even moved lock-stock-barrel to their earmarked bahaks and went back to their village houses only in winters. It was amazing to see their self-sufficient livelihood and that their requirements were minimal even while residing so close to modern civilisation.

The fragility of both the ecology and economy in the area was obvious. Nature had ensured restricted entry, a few mountain passes being the only routes in . The government now plans to develop the area as a tourist destination. A road is being cut through the Neel Dori pass, the shortest route to handwara and a few hotel projects are in the pipeline. They are obviously blind to the fact that the beauty of the region lies in it's isolation. It is the solitude that one relishes here. I am not saying that tourists be kept away from the place ..... but only that let only those willing to lug their back-packs and trek a few miles be allowed in. An ideal solution.. don't you think? I hope Mr Azad is listening.

(There is another reason why I hold Bangus dear to my heart. It is in the adjoining forests that we lost one of our dear colleagues. Sandeep was merely twenty years old and full of zeal. I dedicate this post to his memory).


sudha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nanditha Prabhu said...

this must be an ideal place for a retreat have brought out the geography and nature's tapestry so well .the loss of a dear friend would have made this place all the more unforgettable.....hope the silence and solitude hovering this idyllic beauty spot is not hampered by the hands of tourism!

Maddy said...

hi naveen - i visited Jammu, Srinagar, gulmarg etc in Kashmir 27 years ago, as a student, even then it was a fantastic place, full of character.. I have not been to this place though..

Hey by the by is that picture in the grid you?? take a look at this guy

Maddy said...

wish you and family a happy onam

ketki said...

wow! though i havent seen it you made me feel its the most beautiful place!

Vidya said...

You made the place more beautiful with your words and memories.

To your point, I wonder if the Govt realizes that tourism is not entirely about modernization?I think when people go on vacation, it is about getting away from modernization and to "get lost"


Nanditha Prabhu said...

you have a surprise awaiting my at my travel blog! check out!

Gazal said...

being a kashmiri,your post brought back bitter sweet memories of the valley....and the word'lokut',caught my eye....

Kalyan said...

All the places in Kashmir are part of the beautiful paradise...I have visited this place and its beauty really can't be described in a few have described this place so beautifully in words!
Nice post!