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Tourism in Ladakh looking up

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | September 12, 2003 16:57 IST

Thupstan Chhewang, chairman and chief executive councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development council, has said efforts are being made to lure tourists to Ladakh.

He told rediff.com in New Delhi that over 30,000 foreign tourists visited Ladakh in 2003.

"We had a good tourist season this year. Over 30,000 foreign tourists and 10,000 domestic tourists visited various parts of Ladakh. This is higher than the number of tourists who visited in 1974, which was considered to be the best season until now," he said.

There was a sharp decline in the number of tourists to this region of Jammu and Kashmir after 1989, when Bhuddhists started agitating for a Union territory status for Ladakh.

The Centre has earmarked over Rs54 crore to develop and maintain monasteries, gompas and the tourist infrastructure in Ladakh.

"We had about 5,000 Indian tourists visiting Leh during Sindhu Darshan in June this year. The Ministry of Tourism, headed by Jagmohan, spent about Rs50 lakh on organising the event. We are now concentrating on providing better sewerage and toilet facilities in Ladakh," he said.

He expressed gratitude to Jagmohan for allocating special funds for protecting heritage sites in the region.

"People are constructing buildings within 100 meters of heritage sites and this has been brought to the notice of Jagmohan. The minister has sanctioned Rs2 crore for development of the Chandigarh-Manali-Keylong-Leh route. Work has already started in Himachal Pradesh and soon it will begin in Ladakh region as well," he added.

He said the Archaeology Survey of India did not have funds to protect monuments like Hemis Gompa, Alchi, Fyang, Leh Palace, Shey Palace and Thicksay Monastery, so whatever reconstruction work has to be carried out will have to be done through planned allocations either through central or state funding.

Chhewang said that he was worried about the ecology of the region as more and more labourers were pouring into Ladakh for jobs.

"Right now we have a work force over 20,000 from Bihar and Nepal. And this is affecting our ecology," he said.

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