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Kashmir’s Tulip Garden opens to public

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Srinagar: Kashmir’s famed tulip garden overlooking the famous Dal Lake here was thrown open to the public on Wednesday, marking the beginning of the new tourism season in the Kashmir Valley.

Believed to be Asia’s largest, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden, formerly known as Siraj Bagh, was opened in 2008 by then chief minister of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The idea of the garden, spread over 30 hectares in the foothills of the snow-clad Zabarwan range, was conceived to advance the tourism season in the Valley by two months.

The garden was thrown open to the public by Chief Secretary Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, Mehta said the last six months have seen the highest-ever tourist footfall in the Valley. “The later part of 2021 had broken past records of tourist arrivals to the region and we are optimistic of an incredible tourism boom this year also,” he said.

According to an official press release, he said that the improved road and air connectivity in the UT will greatly enhance the influx of domestic and foreign tourists, thus generating income for the local populace. He said that the condition of Jammu-Srinagar national highway has improved a lot and it takes very less time to travel than earlier; besides, air traffic has also improved significantly.

The Chief Secretary said that tourism is reviving fast post-COVID and the necessary steps are being taken up by the administration to make the stay of tourists more comfortable.

He said that the government under a comprehensive policy has explored and developed hidden and virgin tourist destinations and tourists will have more places to visit beyond Gulmarg, Pahalgam and other places. He said that the government has added 75 new virgin destinations, 75 new adventure treks, 75 heritage sites, and 75 religious sites on the tourism map.

Later, the Chief Secretary also inaugurated J&K Bank enabled e-ticketing facility for the visitors becoming the first visitor to generate e-ticket. He said that queuing up for a long time was cumbersome for the visitors, so e-ticketing was introduced to make the visits of tourists hassle-free.

Commending J&K Bank for its “people-friendly initiatives”, Dr Mehta said “the bank is doing yeoman services and I compliment the management for coming up with an online portal well within the timeline as expected.”

The e-booking provision has been made available on the website of the Floriculture Department from day-one to enable the tourists and visitors to plan their visit comfortably online.

The Chief Secretary also directed the Floriculture department to take feedback from the tourists for making their stay more comfortable.

Dr Mehta appealed to the people to visit Jammu and Kashmir and experience the serene splendor of tourist destinations like Tulip Garden.

J&K Bank MD and CEO, Baldev Prakash, said the launch of this e-ticketing platform is very much in line with the government’s focus on public convenience and comfort of tourists. He added that for public convenience, we will integrate more such utility services into our digitalization drive to widen the ecosystem of online payments thereby increasing overall efficiency of the region’s financial system.

Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department, Dheeraj Gupta; Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Ranjan Prakash Thakur; Commissioner Secretary, Forests, Ecology and Environment, Sanjeev Verma; Commissioner Secretary, Floriculture, Parks and Gardens, Sheikh Fayaz; Secretary Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez; Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Commissioner SMC, Director Handicrafts and Handloom, Director Floriculture and other officers were also present on the occasion.

This year the garden houses 1.5 million flowers of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and muscari.

“The flowers include 68 varieties of tulips,” in-charge of Tulip Garden Inam Rehman Sofi said.

He said the visitors will be able to see six new varieties of tulips.

Sofi said last year, 2.25 lakh people visited the garden and this year “we expect more”.

“Most of the visitors (today) were from outside the UT, which is a good signal. The garden pre-pones our tourist season and I think this is a good omen for this year’s tourist season,” Sofi said.

This year, the department has made provisions for online ticket sales as well to avoid the rush at the ticket counter.

The average lifespan of tulip flowers is three to four weeks, but heavy rains or too much heat can destroy them.

The Floriculture Department plants tulip bulbs in a phased manner so that the flowers remain in the garden for a month or more.

“It feels so good to be here. We are seeing unbelievable flowers, the beauty of Kashmir,” a tourist from Gujarat, Nehal Mehta, said.

Another tourist, Viranshi, also from Gujarat, said, “I had seen flowers in bouquets only so far. This is the first time I am seeing such a vast variety of flowers in a garden, in so many colours. This is beautiful and mesmerising.”

“We have had so many wonderful moments in Kashmir like a Shikara ride and playing in snow, which is a dream come true. But, this Tulip garden is a cherry on top,” she added. (With additional inputs from PTI)

Photo: Javed Khan

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