In a first for the State of Punjab, the festival of 'Migratory Birds' was celebrated at Keshopur Chhamb today. Gracing the occasion as Chief Guest the Cultural Affairs and Tourism Minister, Punjab, Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu said that Punjab is the favourite spot of the migratory birds which is amply proved by the converging of 25000-30000 migratory birds at Keshopur Chhamb and more than 70000 at Harike Pattan. He further said that there are many wetlands around the world which receive less migratory birds than Punjab but have been popularized as centres of tourist excellence. The minister emphasized tapping of the immense tourism potential of the State by the department.Mr. Sidhu further divulged that historical, religious and cultural circuits are coming up in Punjab to bolster tourism sector on one hand while on the other a 'Wetland Circuit' would be formed for the bird lovers for which all the wetlands would be made attractive from tourism point of view. He said that the tour operators as well as the tourists would be connected with the circuit and every facility would be provided to the tourists at these wetlands.The minister on the occasion announced that next year a 'World Photography Contest' would be held at the wetlands for which eminent photographers from the Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet channels would be invited.
He also said that eco-friendly towers would be installed at Keshopur Chhamb for wildlife photographers and bird lovers which would not harm the birds in any way and photography of the migratory birds would also be possible. Divulging more, he said that the main aim is to bring the wetlands on the tourism map for which a tourist friendly environment would be created. Disclosing further, he said that by the next year, tented accommodation would be made available for the tourists leading to tourism getting a huge boost. He said that the intention behind this initiative is to make the wetlands a resting and stoppage spot for the tourists headed to Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.The minister also inaugurated the interpretation centre for the tourists at Keshopur Chhamb constructed at a cost of Rs. 5 crore. This centre would disseminate every information to the tourists thus propelling the tourism sector to greater heights. He also announced Rs. 3 crore for the approach road to Keshopur Chhamb. The minister said that Punjab is the second state after Manipur to implement Cultural Policy and now efforts are on in full swing to frame a Tourism Policy. Batting for connecting the future generations with the rich cultural heritage of Punjab, Mr. Sidhu also championed the cause of generating job avenues from the 'Sabhyachar Ton Rozgar' policy.The minister further said that the tourism department is being encouraged to create employment opportunities in order to give fillip to the economic infrastructure of the State and he is hopeful that the department would be the front runner in taking the State to heights of development. He also said that Punjab made the maximum contribution in freedom struggle of the nation and earning fame as the food basket of the country.
Mr. Sidhu while thanking the farmers who gave 850 acres of land for Keshopur Chhamb said that no stone would be left unturned to transform Gurdaspur as the tourism hub and also that Chhamb would be developed with the participation of all stakeholders.The minister also handed over the keys of the complex at Keshopur Chhamb to the Forest & Wildlife authorities besides releasing the books published by the Tourism Department for promoting tourism.Earlier, the minister also toured Keshopur Chhamb and watched the migratory birds and visited the exhibition of domestic goods manufactured by a self help group. He also praised the artistic acumen of the artisans and visited the whole complex.On the occasion, ex-minister, Punjab, Mr. Ashwani Sekhri termed it as a momentous occasion the visit of Mr. Sidhu to Keshopur Chhamb and said that this scenic spot would be further popularized as a consequence.The MLA (Gurdaspur) Mr. Barindermeet Singh Pahra on the occasion said that the expansion of Keshopur Chhamb would lead to the increase in tourist footfall in Gurdaspur which would in turn lead to the strengthening of the economy of the region. He expressed strong hope that the visionary leadership of Mr. Sidhu would lead to the coming up of Punjab on the global tourism map and popularization of glorious heritage of the state.Others present on the occasion included Secretary Tourism Mr. Vikas Pratap, Director Tourism Mr. Shivdular Singh Dhillon, Principal Chief Conservator (Forest & Wildlife) Mr. Kuldeep Kumar, SDM Gurdaspur Mr. Skatter Singh Bal, Executive Director, Punjab Heritage Board Mr. Basanta Kumar, FCS Mr. K.L. Malhotra, Tehsildar Mr. Navtej Singh Sodhi and officers of the Tourism department.