The Bangus Valley comprises of two immense 'alpine' valleys of the Pir Panjal – Bod Bangus and Lokut Bangus – separated by a narrow strip called 'gur bar' or 'gateway of horses'.
The Bangus mountain biome comprises of high altitude taiga/coniferous forests descending through a grassland biome to a marsh biome traversed by the Tilwan Kohl brook at the valley floor. The biome is nestled 10,000 ft. above sea level below high hilltops of the Qazinag and Shamswari ranges in Kupwara.
While trekking through the pristine unexplored Bangus valleys in the 80s, I remember thinking that you could tuck Gulmarg away in one of the side valleys and not even notice it there. The valleys were nothing short of magical – towering peaks, dense pine forests, galloping herds of horses, uniquely springy meadows, bubbling brooks and rocky hillocks that gave the appearance of ancient ruins. One felt an awesome sense of unity with the universe accentuated by non-existent human contact. The air itself had a enchanted quality – even the most conservative members of our trekking party let their hair down and danced an impromptu jig around our campfire.
Recently there was talk of opening up Bangus to commercial tourism including a '36-hole' golf course. I guess some people cannot get over their obsession with holes. I blogged about it in 2012:
'I am appalled at plans to convert the Bangus Valley into a major tourist resort. Having trekked through Bangus in happier times, the thought that this untamed paradise will soon be commercialised into a Pahalgam-like circus like torments my soul. I hope that a saner voice will call for preservation and the 'powers-that-be' shall listen.'
Apparently the powers-that-be have listened and Bangus will be preserved as a 300 sq. km. biosphere encompassing the 76 sq. kms of the twin valleys and the surrounding ranges.
As I had predicted, the conservationists seem to have prevailed over the environmentalists, but it is their apparent victory over the commercial exploiter/profiteer nexus which is more significant.
Fingers crossed on this one.