Monday December 06, 2021

Road to heaven thru ‘hell’

August 02, 2021

PESHAWAR: With vehicles bumper-to-bumper, many were seen trying to cool the engines by opening the bonnets on the topsy-turvy road leading to the famous Kalash valley in the mountainous Chitral district.

Kalash valley houses three sub-valleys, including Bamboret, Rumbur and Barir. Bamboret drew thousands of vehicles in Eidul Azha days as tourists from various parts of the country thronged the valley to enjoy the forested mountains, freshwater springs and Kalasha community that inhabited the valley for centuries.

However, the road leading to Bamboret takes at least four hours on normal days and more than eight hours on Eid days due to crowds of tourists visiting the area.

Not only Kalash valley, but roads in several other locations such as Garam Chashma, and Upper Chitral areas are in the same dilapidated condition. In certain areas, only jeeps can be used and no other vehicle can ply those areas although thousands of tourists visit them.

The road infrastructure in Shandur area, which houses the world’s highest (altitude) polo ground and is frequented by many during the annual Polo Festival, are facing the same dilemma.

Local elders in Bamboret told The News that the government was allowing tourists to visit the valley but it was not interested in building proper roads leading to the area.

A team of journalists visited Chitral and got stuck on the road right after crossing the Lowari Tunnel for more than an hour in a huge traffic jam. Later, the road leading from Ayun to Bamboret also was blocked by the traffic jam for hours on the third day of Eidul Azha.

Discussing the issue, an elder of Bamboret said that they were facing hardships due to poor roads in the area.

“The roads are totally blocked due to the influx of tourists for the last three days of Eid. In case anyone fell ill, he or she would have to be taken to the hospital through a pushcart or one someone’s back because the vehicles are also stuck on the road almost any time of the day. It means a patient can lose life in this situation,” he added.

When contacted, Member Provincial Assembly from Kalash valley Wazir Zada said that the scheme of Kalash road construction has been federalised and the federal government would release Rs4 billion and Rs650 million for its construction.

“The KP government has already allocated Rs2 billion in the budget for land acquisition, which may start within the next three months,” he added.

He added that the federal government would also release Rs8 billion and 140 million for Garum Chashma road in Chitral. Discussing the main road near Lowari Tunnel, he said a contractor working on it died, which also caused the delay.

To a question about why the roads remain in extremely dilapidated condition in Chitral’s tourist locations despite PTI’s rule once in KP and now both in the centre and KP, he said: “In fact, the previous governments had announced roads’ reconstruction but did not work on it practically, but PTI has started work. However, the approval of projects and starting work on them takes time.”

The lawmaker also said that they were planning a mechanism whereby tourists would be required to do advance booking before landing in Kalash valley so that they do not have accommodation problems there.