Gulmarg Gondola Creating Records

By Our Correspondent

Gulmarg Gondola Creating Records

There are cars and there are cable cars. But the iconic Gulmarg Gondola, which is a two-phase cable car deep in the Himalayas is something different. It is the highest and longest running tourist cable car in the world and first in Asia. It is near the sensitive Indo-Pak line of Control close to Baramulla at an amazing height of 13,500 ft and running smoothly for years so far.

The Gulmarg Gondola is the flagship  attraction of Kashmir tourism and runs atop the pasture of flowers, is located in the Pir Panjal Mountain range in the western Himalayas,  nearly 50km from Srinagar.

The place is defined as a cup-shaped valley with virgin peaks, dry snow and vast meadows which attract the majority of the tourists pouring into the Valley. Now the landmark Gondola has made a record both in terms of tourist’s footfalls and revenue earned.   As per official figures, for the first time since its inception in 1998, Gulmarg   Gondola, the aerial tramways, saw over a million tourists including many from abroad and locals enjoying rides. In the financial year 2023-24 revenue crossed  more  than Rs. 110  crore  and J&K tourism sees unprecedented growth which continues to surpass all previous figures.

According to official statistics, 18 million tourists visited J&K in 2022, up from 11 million a year before and much less earlier  mostly  due to disturbances and Covid 19 pandemic. The number of foreigners is also growing from just 1,600 in 2021 to nearly 20,000 in 2022. Last financial year (2022- 23), the revenue by the Cable Car Corporation running the Gondola was nearly Rs. 100 crore and  in  2020-21, it was Rs. 47.81 crore only.

Tourist flow which was low in Kashmir, dropped further in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 which gave special status to J&K and reduced it to UT category. But it has picked up in subsequent years as the level of violence has come down and now it is at a historic  high. It is a different matter  that such a huge inflow of tourists, though helping locals economically is subject to criticism by Kashmir opposition leaders like Dr Farooq Abdulah.

The Gondola  has two phases - the first phase takes a person to Kongdori bowl at a height of 8,694 ft. The second phase soars to the sky touching Apharwat, at a height of 13,058 ft. The ropeway has 108 cabins and 18 towers. It also offered Chair Cars for phase-II and takes approximately 21 minutes to reach the final destination. The two-stage gondola lift ferries about 600 people per hour to and from Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Apharwat Peak(13,976 ft) The ropeway project is a joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and French firm Pomagalski.

It adds to the ambience, making for a memorable time. One can take beautiful pictures with the backdrop of snow- covered mountain peaks. While taking a ride on this fabled cable car, one will get some of the most beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding region from a height. Depending on time of visit and weather conditions these sights can include vast green fields, rocky terrains, tall green pine trees, snow- capped mountains, snow-covered slopes etc. In addition, the mesmerising view of the Harmukh Range and the Nanga Parbat from Apharwat Mountain is something you really wouldn’t want to miss.

In the past two to three years, the officials took multiple initiatives to ensure  that  visitors have a better experience at the tourist attraction, including online ticket registration. The corporation has also improved the public utilities. The Gulmarg Gondola project was conceived in 1988, a year before a bloody insurgency broke out in Kashmir. It was thrown open to the public ten year later.

There can be fear of large heights and reduced levels of oxygen  specially for some children and the elderly. But doctors are available for any emergency and there are provisions for supply of extra oxygen.  But in general Gondolas are actually among the safest forms of transport in the world, according to the International Meeting of Technical Authorities for Cableways (ITTAB).

Urban cable cars are also on the rise globally, as a green and comfortable transport solution for traffic-clogged cities. In the case of Gulmarg Gondola, a solitary accident occurred in 2017 in which seven occupants died.

Source: Himalayan News Chronicle