Tribune News Service
Gurdaspur, December 2
The irony is inescapable. Despite the fact that Keshopur wetland is teeming with a record 15,000 migratory birds, till now barely a dozen tourists have visited the wetland. The wetland is widely perceived to be one of the largest in Asia.
To complicate matters, the Tourist Interpretation Centre (TIC), built at a cost of Rs 8 crore from funds given by the Asian Development Bank, is not being furnished with latest infrastructure as was promised two years ago. It is located across the road right in front of the wetland, but unfortunately nobody goes there because nothing lies there.
Manjit Singh Dala, a realtor who lives at a stone’s throw from the wetland, recalls how two decades ago it used to have a massive footfall following which the economy of nearby villages got a boost.
“With no road connectivity and bare minimum infrastructure, the time is not far when tourists may start shunning it,” he said.
“Only a few buses ply following which tourists have to use their own transportation. This does not augur well,” says Rajesh Mahajan, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Gurdaspur.
“A 4-km road, which branches off from the Pathankot-Gurdaspur National Highway, called the Paniyar road, is barely 10-foot wide and is in a state of perennial disrepair. It is a bone-rattling experience and nobody tends to take risks,” said Dala.
Observers say proper signboards should be installed on the two roads leading to the wetland otherwise ornithologists are likely to end up at the wrong place.
Gurdaspur judicial officer Vishesh Kamboj, whose photographs regularly make it to the pages of ‘National Geographic’ magazine, says he has been visiting the area for the last two years but seldom has he seen a tourist.
The other road leading to the wetland is the 6.5-km Gurdaspur-Behrampur road.
In August 2017, the then Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu sanctioned a Rs 3-crore grant to re-carpet this passage. Once this was done, locals, particularly those hailing from Barnala village, were quick to set up encroachments.
On paper, the road is more than 30-foot wide, but at certain places, it is has been reduced to barely 14 feet, hampering the flow of traffic.
Old-timers recall how bird watchers used to arrive in droves in the 70s and 80s. “However, after that the condition of the roads became so bad they stopped coming. The economy of villages adjacent to the wetland used to be sustained by tourists. That is not the case now,” explained Kamboj.
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