By Seema Mir/M. Ashraf Wani/ Taj Nabi Khan
SKARDU,KALAM,KUMRAT Sep 4 (APP):No doubt, Pakistan has huge potential to attract foreign and domestic tourists to the breathtaking natural landscapes to boost its tourism industry but it would not be possible to make the country a real tourist destination unless the road infrastructure leading to these sites is developed for smooth traffic flow.
It was due to attractive tourist spots that the economy of Egypt, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, and Singapore has grown. If properly focused, Pakistan can also become a popular tourist destination in the region. The right policies pertaining to visa, security, infrastructure, marketing and tourist facilities can multiply the number of tourists.
The British Backpacker Society in 2018 ranked Pakistan as the world’s top adventure travel destination, describing the country as “one of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.” However, despite this wealth of tourist attractions, Pakistan’s tourism sector trails far behind than that of Turkey, Sri Lanka and the region in general.
Tourism helps in generating more economic activities, revenue and employment besides playing a significant role in development of the area. However, the bad road infrastructure not only affects tourism industry but also disturbs the tourists in visiting the areas.
For instance, Skardu, a district of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) also called the ‘Jewel of Pakistan’ radiates beauty from almost every angle — wherever one goes, there he/she enjoys the bewitching surroundings. The mind-blowing scenery of the area creates an aura of enchantment and takes the onlooker to another world. The unique landscape of Skardu like other districts of GB has made it a global destination.
Talking to APP, a visitor Muhammad Irfan said that he wanted to go to Kharpochu Fort and the Blind Lake but he abandoned the idea due to difficult terrain and bumpy roads. “All the scenic spots are striking and amaze the visitors by leaving the onlookers spell-bound, he said, adding, all that needs to be done is to build the roads.”
The view of Katpana Lake in Skardu and its surroundings is superb, it is a marvelous natural blend with Katpana cold desert on one side and Katapana Lake adjoined by Indus River and mighty mountains of Karakorum Range and the Himalayan Range on the other.
Moreover,the Shangrilla Lake and its surroundings in Skardu are eye-catching, the panoramic view from the hill top is enchanting amidst pines and poplars with strong gales flowing past one at night thus taking him or her to another world. There are other beautiful sites like Deosai top which is also called the world’ roof after Tibatan Plateau Changtan, The Blind Lake, The Kharpochu Fort etc. however, all this beauty is marred due to dilapidated road conditions of the area .
A mountaineer, Shaheen Baig underlined the need for building the roads as well as hotels of international standards equipped with the required facilities for the comfort of tourists. He said, “The economy of the area was mostly tourism dependent.”
Similarly, the travel from Bahrain to Kalam tourist resort of Swat Valley has virtually turned into a nightmare as the road infrastructure of around 32 kilometers is in shabby condition, inviting attention of authorities to restore the beauty of Kalam and adjacent areas by taking immediate measures.
“Kalam is an ignored beauty beyond rough trails and needs immediate attention of the concerned authorities to encourage travelers to visit this natural treasure,” said a tourist Dr. Waqas Ahmed, who was on family trip to valley.
“We were four families travelling from Swat to Kalam and it took us around 3 hours to cross just around 33 kilometers unconstructed road along the river Swat from Bahrain to Kalam, which is not only dangerous but challenging for the tourists who drive their own vehicles up to this hilly resort,” he said.
In a video message to APP, Senior Minister of Tourism, Sports, Youth, Culture and Archeology, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Atif Khan blamed the PML (N) government for neglecting the project. He expressed the hope that the road would be completed before next tourist season, saying that it could not be constructed completely this year as the areas remain closed in winter season due to heavy snowfall.
Likewise, the scenic beauty of lush green mountains of paradise-like Kumrat valley mostly covered with snow that melts into gushing water of falling streams bringing down the temperature into cold weather (10-15°C) even in hot summer in other parts of the country. The rich green environment of the valley is a treat to watch and behold.
The zigzag road having mountains on one side and a criss-cross river on the other makes it an amazing and nerve-soothing journey for the tourists. Kumrat is situated at an altitude of 8100 meters above the sea level which has also played a key role in billion trees tsunami project.
A jeep driver, Zafar Khan said, “After the visit of Imran Khan to Kumrat in 2016, the valley has got national and international level projection; as a result, thousands of tourists from across the country and abroad thronged the picturesque valley, especially during summer vocations and Eid holidays”. He, however, said that the lack of road infrastructure is the main hurdle in getting into the valley.