Enhanced roads connectivity vital to bolster tourism, alleviate poverty

By Fakhar Alam

KALAM, Oct 10 (APP):The scorching heat is on wane bidding adieu to various objects in the scenic Kalam valley in Swat district where tourists are enjoying its mesmerizing beauty and waterfalls amid winter heralding melodies and fresh cool breeze take them into new level of thrill and excitement.

Blessed with over 50 lakes including the famous Mahodand lake covering two-kilometre area and 2,865 meters above the sea level at Usho valley, Kalam is attracting influx of tourists, trekkers and adventure sports lovers from plain areas of the country enjoying its cool weather, trout fish and boating at Gabral and Ushu rivers being two major tributaries of River Swat originating from high-peak mountains of upper Kalam.

Kalam’s adjoining scenic hilly areas including Matiltan, Ushu, Utror, Gabral and Mohdand viz a viz Kundol lakes’ hotels are jam-packed with tourists, hikers, mountaineers and sports lovers amid hide and seek between sun and clouds with moderate to erratic rainfalls over snow-clad mountains take them into state of ecstasy.

Swat Expressway has made a positive impact on tourism related businesses in Swat district where a record 1,500,000 tourists had arrived during Eidul Azha’s holidays. As result, hotels and transport sectors have witnessed a great boom in Khyber Pakthunkhwa where a record Rs. 66 billion revenue generated and Rs. 27 billion businesses has been achieved by the rural economy following the arrival of record 2.77 million tourists during the three days Eid vacations.

“Kalam’s mountainous beauty is amazing. River Swat coming out of Kalam valley enhances its scenic beauty and make it an ideal tourist destination of Pakistan,” said Riaz Khan, a government school teacher of Nowshera district while talking to APP at Kalam bazaar.

“Whenever I got an opportunity, I visit this scenic hilly station of Pakistan to spend a few days in its cool and pollution-free weather. Kalam’s waterfalls, River Swat’s whitish-blue water and hide and seek between the sun and clouds are adding colors to this awesome hilly station,” he said, adding “I have been visiting Kalam for the last four years and this year my joy was doubled after my two hours were saved by Swat Expressway”.

Being a home to Ghandhara civilization, archeo-religious sites and mesmerizing natural beauty, Khyber Pakthunkhwa including Swat district had always remained a centre of attraction for tourists, archeologists, Buddhists and monks of Thailand, Sri Lanka and other countries by exploring Pakistan’s archeological treasures. Recently, a-2000 year-old Buddhists fresco paintings at Abba Saib Cheena Swat believed to be used for archeo-religious and education purposes had been unearthed and preserved by KP Archeology Department.

A 15-member delegation comprising special advisors and assistants to the Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister, scholars, monks and other delegates had recently visited Swat Museum and others historical sites of Udyana and were highly impressed by archaeological treasures and its preservation by the KP Government.

KP Government, in line with PM’s vision, are constructing roads projects amounting to Rs. 11 billion to provide an easy access to tourists to explore the archaeological and tourism treasures of Khyber Pakthunkhwa including Swat.

Latifur Rerhman, Spokesperson KP Tourism and Archaeology Department told the news agency that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Culture and Tourism Authority (KP C&TA) has been working on a number of development projects for promotion of tourism and uplift of new potential destinations to reduce tourists’ load in existing destinations load on Kalam, Nathia Gali and Naran-Kaghan. He said, for this purpose, a new tourism valley “Ganool” carrying splendid natural beauty, is being introduced.

In order to strengthen roads’ connectivity imperative for bolstering of tourism and alleviation of poverty in KP, he said Kalam-Kumrat Road, Aywon-Kalash, Bamborat and Rambor Valley and Chitral-Garam Cheshma Road would be constructed to open up Malakand division for tourists and adventure sports lovers.

Rs. 4,812.700 million would be spent on roads’ development in tourist areas of Malakand division, Rs 4,655.134 million on Hazara’s access roads, Rs. 3044.553 million for construction of approach road to Sheikh Badin DI Khan’s tourist resort and Rs. 2,200 million for development of tourist spots in the province. Jeepable tracks costing Rs500 million in touristic’ areas would also be constructed.

New tracks including Thandyani-Nathiagali (40 km) track covering Bringali, Dagri Bangla, Miranjai Top having over 150 years-old trees and Thandyani-Tastu Bangla constructed in 1902 during colonial era would be developed. Mahnoor-Biyari Forest-Anso Lake-Saiful Malook lake covering in three days and two nights and Shinkyari Top-Kand Bangla-Shaheed Pani, Nadi Bangla and Mosamasla carrying 40kms length would also be constructed along with provision of facilities of rest houses, washrooms and tours guides.

Capt (Retd), Kamran Ahmed Afridi, Director General, KP Culture and Tourism Authority said feasibility studies of Kumrat Dir Upper-Madakhast Chitral Cable Car project has been completed. the 14 kilometers world’s longest and highest Cable Car Project (CCP) with a proposed cost of Rs32 billion would connect Kumrat Valley Dir Upper with Madaklasht valley of Lower Chitral and on completion would attract around 10 million tourists every year to Khyber Pakthunkhwa.

Work on promotion of historic culture of Chitral, restoration of Kalash culture, maintaining smooth flow of traffic in tourism destinations, recruitment of tourism police, handing over of all official rest houses to private sector on lease, process of shifting of camping pods on 10 different places to private sector on lease and restoration of heritage tourism on archaeological sites were expedited..

The KP government has decided to setup camping pods projects in 10 new scenic places and search for five new suitable sites are in progress in the province, he said. Consultancy is in progress for making ski resorts in different places besides establishment of Culture and Tourism Authority’s offices at divisional level and handing over of 167 rest houses on lease.

He said a tourism survey in all seven tribal districts of merged areas was being conducted for establishment of camping pods, picnic spots, making tourism areas accessible through roads connectivity, rest houses, tourism and cultural activities, arranging festivals and others many schemes that after completion would make erstwhile Fata a hub of tourism.