Meet Baderwah-born Zahid Moghal, man behind developing,  exploring unexplored tourist desertions in Kupwara 

People credit him for identifying, developing Eco parks, and trekking routes resulting in engaging unemployed youth to earn livelihood

Shahid Peer 

Kupwara:  Gifted with natural beauty and immense potential,  north Kashmir’s Kupwara district in last couple of years has emerged as the best offbeat tourist destination following the introduction of new eco-tourism initiatives encouraging visitors from various parts of the country.  

At a distance of about 100 Kilometers from Srinagar,  Kupwara district has earned its name for most preferred offbeat unexplored destinations. The naturally rich scenic beauty of the district remained untouched for a very long awaiting required attention. 

Several places with the potential to attract tourists are mainly under forest cover and remain with Forest department to take care of. 

This district has tremendous potential to be developed into a breathtaking tourist destination. From the hidden gem ‘Of Bangus Valley ‘ to the picturesque valley of ‘Lolab’, Kupwara has got a colossal tourism arsenal at its disposal.

Nature has bestowed Kupwara with pristine forests, eye-catching mountains, and luxuriant meadows to attract tourists/nature lovers from across the country.

In a much-awaited initiative, Kamraj Forest Division identified one of the most prolific Forest Divisions in the North Circle located in the Northern albeit remote District, Kupwara of Kashmir has earned a name for working towards exploring potential of  beautiful destinations to attract tourists.

The Division has hovered its wings on a significant forest cover of Kupwara and extended its boundaries to forests of Baramulla as well as Bandipora districts covering an area of about 85805.0730 hectares. It comprises 6 Forest Ranges viz Kupwara, North Lolab, South Lolab, Kandi, Machil, and Special Ranges. The Division is blessed with profuse coniferous  & Alpine forests, lush green meadows, rich wildlife, and various wetlands to add to its diversity.

The Headquarters of Kamraj Forest Division is located 2 km away from the main Town of Kupwara.

The people of Kupwara and those associated with tourism activities, in particular, were fortunate enough to have most dynamic and enthaustic officer at the helm of affairs.

A Baderwah-born, a forest, and naturalist-friendly Zahid Aslam Moghal  heading the most prolific Kamraj Forest Division as DFO, was more inclined towards exploring the tourism potential of various destinations in Kupwara.

He has been credited with identifying, the scope of Eco-Tourism in Kupwara. He stressed that the the eco Tourism is believed to be significant for the generation of income, sustainability of the environment, political enablement of local societies as well as educational purposes.

Notably, Kupwara is blessed with scintillating natural beauty and abounds with dense forests, lush green valleys, enchanting meadows, imposing mountains, gushing streams, shimmering lakes, and rich & varied wildlife.  Every locale of this district is enchanting and mesmerizing and beckons nature lovers. All spectacles of nature be it a village, plain, hill, mountain pasture, or meadow are eye-catching and worth seeing.

Famously identified as the Brainchild of Mr. Zahid Aslam Moghal, DCF, Kamraj Forest, a lot of initiatives were initiated for promotion and exploring potential of Eco-tourism in Kupwara.  “To explore this potential Mr. Zahid Aslam Moghal, instigated efforts and developed various tourist spectacles. From  Eco-Parks to trekking routes, various scenic spots have blossomed into tourist destinations to allure people across the country and thereby generate employment opportunities for the local masses.”

Some of the Eco-Tourism initiatives include, Nagriwari Park, Satbaran Park,  Montane Park, Kairwan Park, Affan Warnow, Sogam Park. Some Trekking routes were also developed for offbeat enthusiasts aimed to attract, increase the tourist footfall in Kupwara district offering them a wide range of thrill and excitement. 

These Eco Tourism parks managed to attract close to 50,000 tourists both locals and those who arrived from various parts of the country. The trekking routes of 58 kilometers in different areas also reminded very abuzz with offbeat destination enthusiasts relishing their moments. 

Developing Trekking routes and Eco Parks have also resulted in generation of livelihood in the villages on forest fringes through homestays, nature guides, trek operators, food stalls and forest souvenirs.

For the first time,  the unique initiative of homestays also gained immense momentum with visitors prefer staying there instead of other places to enjoy the offbeat destinations. Homestays were initially started as a trial which later turned out to be a mega-hit resulting in expanding the operations and roping in many places like Machil sector,  Affan Warnow, Kumkadi Hyhama, and a few other places. The homestay concept in border district  Kupwara has resulted in ever-increasing tourist footfall compared to previous years.

Apart from tourism, his adamantine attitude against the forest damage has instilled fear among the nefarious jungle smugglers which has assuaged the forest damage to an extreme extent in the district.

The forest department aims to make Kupwara a tourist hotspot by ensuring all the required infrastructure, ambiance, state-of-the-art facilities and above all, the conservation of forests which remains their prime job and a duty. “Through the conservation of green gold, not only the district will thrive economically but will also eradicate poverty, unemployment, and most importantly, ecological balance.”

All these initiatives will prove to be more beneficial and result-oriented only if the general masses co-operate with them to keep alive the wings of hope to reach the destination, we all have dreamt of. “Making Kupwara a Global eco-tourism Hotspot.”