Pahalgam (Jammu and Kashmir), July 14 : Beyond the cricket mania, which appears to have overwhelmed almost all sports lovers in the country, river rafting is fast emerging as a popular sport in the Kashmir Valley.
In Kashmir's Pahalgam region, in particular, the white water river rafting has gained immense popularity.
Located in the south-east of Kashmir, Pahalgam is surrounded by lofty mountain ranges and is washed by gushing streams and rivulets which provide abundant opportunities for adventure sports like river water rafting
The aquatic adventure sport is attracting a lot of domestic as well as international tourists. And, this is a good news for the local residents related to tourism sector.
In fact, the white water river rafting destinations in India are comparable to the best in the world and among these the ones in Kashmir render utmost thrills to the participants.
Adventure-loving tourists visiting Kashmir include Pahalgam as their prime destination to enjoy thrills of white water rafting here.
"I have done river rafting in almost all the places across India. The only hill station, which was left, was Pahalgam. After attempting river-rafting here I have realized my cherished wish here as well. I'm enjoying my experience here. Earlier I had done river rafting in Rishikesh," said Naresh Kumar, a Rajasthani tourist.
Earlier, Pahalgam used to have only 10-13 boats sailing along the ice-cold white waters of Lidder Nallah (stream). Bt now their number has touched 40-45 to cater to the needs of the ever growing enthusiasts of this adventure sport here.he growing charm among tourists has proved a boon for local residents here.
"The tourists' response is very good. Out of the total tourists coming to Pahalgam, 90 per cent are doing rafting. We know about it because we are into this business. Even the locals are into rafting and it's getting very popular." said Mohammed Ibrahim Raina, owner of a rafting boat.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government after watching the potential of this sport is keen to capitalise on river rafting as an employment generation medium in the region.
"It is our effort to promote white river rafting because we have streams and beautiful rivers here which are perfect for it. here is a lot of potential and opportunity for white water rafting so we want to fully exploit it and create this facility for the tourists. The effort is to promote white river rafting to benefit local residents because the government is not interested in running this rafting programme and we are only overseeing this. We are laying down the terms and conditions for conducting this programme and only want the locals to benefit from this," said Sarmad Hafeez, Joint Director for Tourism in Kashmir.
Kashmir is known the world over for its enchanting picturesque lakes, streams and rivers. River water rafting is a relatively recent introduction in the Kashmir valley.
Tourism is the mainstay of Jammu and Kashmir's economy. It has seen a tremendous upswing since 2004. By Fayaz Ahmad