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Nelong Valley shut after ' 62 war to woo tourists.

TOURISTS visiting Uttarakhand can now relish the picturesque beauty of a mountain desert like the Spiti Valley. The state government has decided to open the Nelong Valley in Uttarakhand to Indian tourists after a gap of more than half a century.

The 1962 Sino- Indian war had put a break on the entry of civilians in the valley, which is located on the international border at an altitude of over 11,000 feet above the sea level.

The valley is part of the Gangotri National Park and will now be open for restricted entries during the day. Only three dozen tourists will be allowed to visit the valley. Foreign tourists are prohibited from visiting the valley owing to its strategic location on the India- China border.

Apart from Indo- Tibetan Border Police personnel and Armymen, the area has remained out of bounds for the common public -- barring occasional visits by shepherds -- since 1962.

Bhutiya villagers living on the borders were rehabilitated to Dunda and other locations in Uttarkashi after the Chinese aggression. Army posts were set up in many of the villages here.

"Tourists will enjoy the cold desert. They can get a chance to see the Himalayan blue sheep ( Bharal) and even the snow leopard, if they are lucky. Only six vehicles, with a maximum of six tourists each, will be allowed to enter the Nelong valley per day," said Shravan Kumar, who is the deputy director of Gangotri National Park.

Before the Sino- Indian war, the Nelong Valley was a significant point for crossborder traders. Many structures, related to the old trade route, still stand in the area. These include a wooden bridge known as Gartang Galion and the Lal Devta temple, where Bhutiya people engaged in cross border trade used to make offerings before proceeding for Tibet.

Nelong is located on the route to Gangotri and tourists will have to board safari jeeps -- registered with the forest department -- for a 25- km- ride from Bhairavghati to Nelong Valley.

"Nelong Valley will offer new attraction for visitors in Uttarkashi. They will also get a chance to see the Tibetan plateau," said Ajay Puri, president of Uttarkashi Hotel Association.

The news has generated hype among adventure enthusiasts. As explorer Tilak Soni says: "Besides trekking to Gaumukh, Nelong has something unique to offer to the adventure and nature lovers visiting Uttarkashi. A lot of infrastructure, which was made for cross- border trade, is intact and will surprise visitors." ( Top) The Lal Devta temple; ( right) A wooden bridle bridge used by cross- border traders in Nelong Valley.

Tourists entering the Nelong Valley in Uttarakhand, Tourists will enjoy the cold desert. Only six vehicles, with a maximum of six tourists each, will be allowed to enter the Nelong Valley per day.

' ' ' ' -- Shravan Kumar, Deputy Director, Gangotri National Park

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:May 16, 2015
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