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Srinagar, July 22, : Despite being the land of intellectuals, scholars, poets and thinkers Bandipora is perhaps the most neglected region of the valley.

Take any sector; and see its condition, the Egypt city on the banks of Nile, as termed by the poet of East Sir Mohammad Iqbal termed Bandipora lacks the development miserably today.

(“Traage BAL kee rifatoon say daikhiyay Wular kee Jheel

Bandipora Misr hai bar kinarayay AAb e Neel.” Sir M. Iqbal)

To begin with, let us take the Health Sector. The District Hospital is working in an old and obsolete building, which is not sufficient to cater the load that it has to bear being a district level hospital. The space is insufficient and where hygiene is the first causality.

Although State Government had sanctioned a new building for the hospital in 2009, near Nussu Bus Stand, which still awaits completion. Similarly, a maternity hospital for the district was sanctioned in 2010, which is facing the same fate. Around 30 deadlines were set for the completion of both the buildings, which have to see the light of the day yet. The incomplete buildings are mocking the local population, but cows, sheep and dogs are enjoying their stay into these. District Administration is sleeping over the issue, while the patients have to suffer a great deal. Pregnant women, due to the lack of space and proper facilities have to take the main brunt and maximum of such patients are referred to tertiary care hospital Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar, which is already under tremendous pressure from city and then from the peripheries.

Once referred to Srinagar, another awful situation begins for such patients, due to the bad condition of the roads. The road stretch from Bandipora to Garoora is in worse condition, where there is a pothole after every five meters. This has many a time resulted in the premature delivery of pregnant patients on the roadside.

Bandipora happens to be important for its contribution to the Power Sector. Despite hosting one of the major power projects of the country, Kishan Ganga Project, the whole of the surrounding area remains plunged into darkness, due to the absence of infrastructure. Work on Grid Station at Pattushai, which commenced around 12 years ago is yet to get completed. People of the area have to suffer on account of the non-availability of electricity when the area is contributing a notable portion of electricity generated by the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Apart from its rich cultural and mystic heritage, Bandipora is also known for its beauty. There are many unexplored tourist destinations, which have the potential of competing with any other known destination in Kashmir, but stand inaccessible because of the absence of better roads. One such destination is “Authwout”, which is rich in beauty and can be sold as one of the best tourist locations to the outside world, but how to reach there is a Million dollar question.

Tourist Department is spending crores of rupees every year on the promotion of the Tourism Industry, but without raising infrastructure viz roads and accommodation, the whole exercise goes down the drain. Same is the situation in the case of “Authwout”, which has very potential to prove to be not only an exemplary tourist destination, but is in every respect fit to be exploited for adventure tourism like River Rafting, Kayaking Angling in particular. To do this a better road connectivity and building infrastructure is the basic need, which the tourism department knowingly or unknowingly ignoring.

Department has constructed a hut here, but is not operational, while a private hut which caters to people visiting here, mainly local or the surrounding areas, but on exorbitant rates is the only facility available here. If exploited for the purpose, “Authwout” could prove a significant source of employment for scores of the unemployed of the area.

People of the area are complaining that Tourist Department has badly ignored the area and despite approaching the authorities to develop the area, their pleas have so far, fallen to deaf ears.

Bandipora is very important also for another reason. It is situated at the banks of Asia’s largest sweet water lake, Wular. The lake is in mess and is shrinking at a very fast pace. Declared as Ramsar Site in 1971, by the United Nations wing for wetlands, had once had a water cover of about 130 square KMs, but due to human interference, destructive government policies and encroachment has shrunk to less than 70 Square Meters today. Parts of the lake have been turned into paddy land, while Forest Department raised a plantation of willow trees in the lake over 69,000 kanals of water covered area, which later turned into a disaster. On one hand, the water suction by the trees has left the lake dry, while silt retention has given birth to the land surface area, where the trees were planted.

Wular-Mansbal Development Authority, the agency responsible for the conservation of the lake has so far been a failure to restore the lake and remove the encroachments, despite having a project worth crores at its disposal from the Central Government.

The lake by default is a basin for handling the flood water and has always been a factor to save the population from getting deluged, whenever flood situations arouse, but the vandalization it has undergone for decades now has made it angry and did not come to any rescue in 2014, when valley witnessed one of the worst floods of the century, marooning almost every area from Khanabal to Khadanyar.

Every disaster and its experience leave lessons to learn, but on observing the steps taken to this effect, one can easily conclude that the result is a big Zero.

So much to say and still so much left to highlight, but when the Government is in deep slumber and the society is lacking the participatory approach, perhaps Allamah Iqbal has to rise again from his grave to shake the conscience of the stakeholders and to remind:

“Himala kay chashmay ubaltay hain kub tuk

Khizar sochta hai Wular kay kinaray”

CNS special report by Haroon Nabi