Gurdaspur, February 27
On January 29, 2018, then tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu strode into Keshopur chamb, one of the Asia’s biggest wetland, with half-a-dozen bureaucrats and proclaimed that an international photography competition will be organised annually in which lensmen from international TV channels—Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet— will be invited.
Sidhu had stated that a “wetland tourism circuit” was also on a drawing board.
Projects fail to take off
- Rs 5-crore Tourism Interpretation Centre to guide eco-tourists failed to kick off
- Lack of development of four thoroughfares has resulted in encroachments
Four years down the line, neither photography competition nor has wetland circuit, materialised. Right now, things have come to such a pass that if the wetland does not get a benefactor, it would soon lose its soul.
“Keshopur is on a ventilator,” said a wildlife officer.
Rajesh Mahajan, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), said, “Despite all the impediments the marshy land faces, thousands of migratory birds have visited the wetland this year. The area is a paradise for winged visitors which fly in all the way from Siberia and Central Asia to escape harsh winters.” Officials do tell you that birds come, but conveniently hide the fact that bird watchers were nowehere to be seen.
A leading ornithologist said,“All three of Sidhu’s mega-projects have evaporated into thin air. He had one full year to ensure he kept his word before he was shunted out of the Cabinet.”
The roads leading to the wetland remained in poor shape. Sidhu gave Rs 3 crore to develop all the four thoroughfares which lead to the area. He had personally ensured that these were reconstructed and recarpeted, but once he was shorn of his governmental position, the roads started falling victim to encroachments and government apathy.
The Tourism Interpretation Centre (TIC), which was built at a cost of Rs 5 crore with the sole aim of guiding eco-tourists, has died a natural death. Negative publicity, broken roads, a dysfunctional TIC and lack of transport facilities have stripped Keshopur of its sheen.
The ornithologists claim that if the state government does not give a massive dose of oxygen in the form of funds, the birds may well start skipping the area in future.
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