JWALAMUKHI: Nestling in the lap of the towering snow-clad Dhauladhar ranges, the Kangra valley beckons tourists with the bounty nature has bestowed â€” antique miniature paintings, ancient temples and sprawling green tea gardens. There is a mini-Tibet at McLeodganj which attracts both Indian and Foreign visitors who are keen on getting a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Tibetans and wish to seek the blessings of the Dalai Lama, revered as the “living Buddha”.
All important towns in the valley, including Dharamsala, Palampur, Kangra, Mcleodganj and Jwalamukhi, have reasonable accommodation and most of the hotels there have STD facility. Guest houses in the residential areas are few. However, there is no arrangement for medical aid to tourists. They like locals have to depend on small hospitals private clinics and whatever little these are equipped with. Dharamsala, McLeodganj, Palampur, Kangra and Jwalamukhi lack adequate parking facilities. The traffic goes haywire during the season with vehicles parked haphazardly by drivers.
A survey of the important towns dotting the tourist map of the valley reveals that not much is being done or arranged by the Tourism Department to make the tourists visit and stay comfortable and memorable. Bad roads, unhygienic conditions, erratic water supply, exorbitant rents in private guest houses, non-availability of standard food items and the level at which these are priced, put tourists off.
This coupled with inadequate publicity of the natural and traditional assets of the valley, makes a large number of tourists pack up earlier than scheduled. Non-availability of guides, lack of proper transport facilities and conducted tours within the Kangra valley are other factors which acts as a damper.
McLeodganj, attracts most foreign tourists all through the year but precious little has been done to tap its tourism potential.
Hotels, especially small ones, are ill-maintained and unhygienic; the food is costly and below standard so is the transportation. â€œThe taxi owners loot us because of tourist are not aware of local conditions” says an American tourist, Chris Thomos, adding that even the tourist information centre does not help foreigners. Dal Lake, located at a height in Mcleodganj, has lost the pious touch due to the disposal of refuse and filth into it by the institutions around. Residents of Dharamsala have undertaken cleaning-up operations but the plight of the lake is yet to catch the attention of the Tourism Department.
The plan of setting up a ropeway between Dharamkot and Triund and the key towns in the valley is still hanging fire. The area has good scope for adventure tourism. Place like Jwalamukhi, Kangra, Chintpurni, which have popular temples, fail to sustain the interest of visitors due to lack of adequate accommodation.
There is no evidence to suggest that the authorities have any plans to address themselves to these problems.
(Photo by Saanjay Bhatia)