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July 22, 2019

Thoughtless tourism


July 22, 2019

The influx of thousands of domestic tourists to Pakistan’s pristine northern areas is obviously good news for locals. Tourism brings in business, provides income and opens up job opportunities. Sadly it also seems to be bringing in huge piles of rubbish in the form of plastic waste, empty cartons, discarded fruit and other material. Holiday snapshots taken in Kaghan, Swat, Gilgit, the Galyat area and other locations show beautiful mountains, lakes and forests. Some however have also thoughtfully captured the terrible havoc caused by tourists with no respect for the landscapes they destroy or for the environment. Social media has been filled by such photographs, some of which show lakes or rivers virtually filled by paper and plastic waste. It does not need too much awareness to know that throwing litter on the ground is not acceptable behavior. The piles of waste will take months to clear if this happens at all and inevitably will pose a lasting threat to the ecology and local wildlife. Some pictures show razor blades, condoms and other potentially hazardous material dumped amidst seas of garbage. Along routes where long traffic jams have occurred the situation is often worst with the lack of public toilet facilities simply adding to the ugly scenes.

Already in our country we have seen once pristine spots such as the legendry Saiful Malook Lake in Kaghan turn into a spot where untidy kiosks stand around waters that were once turquoise in colour. Discarded garbage lies around and floats on the lake. The colour has changed to a more murky grey. We seem to be bent on destroying the natural beauty of our own country through uncouth, thoughtless behavior. The destruction of the once beautiful hill town of Murree, both through unplanned construction and equally unplanned garbage management, is just one example. Even more worrying is the fact that places like the Atabad Lake in the Gojal Valley of Hunza is being threatened in the same manner. Of course we need to encourage tourism. Of course we need to encourage people from urban areas to experience their country and its majesty. But we also need them to do so without destroying prime spots and ruining them possibly forever. The provision of more garbage bins, and the policing and fining of litterers while also creating greater consciousness must be a part of this badly needed campaign.

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