By Shah Abbas
Srinagar, India, Mar 23 (EFE).- Asia’s largest tulip garden, blooming with 1.5 million colorful flowers on a foothill garden, opened its gates to visitors on Wednesday, in a spectacle that signals the onset of spring in the idyllic but troubled Kashmir Valley of India.
Authorities said the 30-hectare sprawling garden was thrown open with the hopes that it would attract visitors from across the world to boost tourism in the region battered by decades of an armed insurgency against Indian rule.
Some 68 varieties of the genus of spring-blooming bulbs have sprouted in the garden, located on the foot of the lush green Zabarwan hills and overlooking the famed Dal Lake in Srinagar, the main city of the region.
“The garden will attract people for around a month,” Kashmir floriculture department head Farooq Ahmad Rather told EFE.
He said the garden also has muscari, daffodils, and thyssen varieties of flower to fascinate the visitors.
Tourists and locals thronged the garden on the first day of its opening for a series of musical and cultural events.
Authorities are hopeful that the garden would attract visitors from across the country and abroad to revive tourism in the valley that has suffered massive economic and human losses due to the conflict.
Last year, the garden was shut in the middle of the season after the second wave of the coronavirus virus hit the country between April and June.
Even then, a record 225,000 visitors, mostly locals, visited the garden in 2021, said Rather.
The garden with seven walkways was first opened in 2008 to attract more tourists during the 30-day flowering season.
Kashmir, famous for the beauty of its freshwater lakes, babbling ice water brooks, lush green meadows, and snow-capped mountains, was once among the top tourist destinations in the world.
However, the last nearly three and half decades of the armed conflict have made the place unsafe for travelers.
Tourism was once one of the significant sectors of the economy of the Kashmir region disputed between India and Pakistan since 1947.
In a statement, the government said tourism was being promoted at the “highest level” to boost Kashmir’s economy and generate employment.
Director Tourism GN Itoo said the department had started promoting all the seasons in Kashmir.
“Kashmir has recorded an increased footfall of tourists from last year,” Itoo said.
India’s Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status in August 2019, ostensibly for peace and development in the disputed region. EFE