Development of Kumrat Valley for tourism
S M Hali


Terror attacks have deprived Pakistan the chance of rising to its true potential of earning revenues through tourism. Nature has gifted Pakistan with immense natural resources like vast sea beaches, lakes, mountains, valleys and plateaus, which can compete with any international scenic spot. The threat of terror attacks by miscreants have deterred tourists from visiting the resorts in Pakistan. Take the example of Malam Jabba, a hill station in the Hindu Kush mountain range nearly 40 km from Saidu Sharif in Swat Valley. It was developed as a ski resort equipped with modern facilities including roller/ice-skating rinks, chair lifts, skiing platforms, telephones and snow clearing equipment. Unfortunately, the resort was occupied by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who destroyed the hotel, the multi-million dollarsí ski equipment and hotels. After reinstituting the writ of the state, Malam Jabbaís lost glory is being restored and ski competitions are being organized while tourists are thronging in large numbers.

Similarly, Kumrat Valley, another natural resort in the Upper Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is a picturesque spot for travelers. Every summer thousands of tourists from different areas of the country visit Kumrat valley and enjoy the greenery and cool weather. Kumrat is covered with green pastures, snow clad mountains, the river Panjkora, foggy mounds, rolling plains and forests, which are attractions of the region, serving as habitats for a wide variety of flora and fauna. It offers ravishing scenic campsites, trekking, hiking as well as rock climbing locales. Similarly, it provides a base camp for hikes to an alpine glacial Katora Lake.

It is heartening to note that the current provincial government of KP has recently decided to launch an initiative to develop tourism in Kumrat Valley. According to the media, Sahibzada Sibghatullah (MNA/PTI NA-5 Dir Upper) has been tasked to pave the way for the said holiday resort, purchase land from locals for developing parks and resorts. However, there are a few impediments in the path of development of Kumrat Valley as a National Park. Firstly, in the sub-zero temperatures prevailing there during winters, the residents cut down the pines and fir trees to burn wood to keep themselves warm. KP government must provide natural gas supply to the Valley for keeping the hearth and homes of the residents warm. Since natural gas is scarce, alternately, the government can utilize the abundant hydel resources and waterfalls and install small hydroelectric plants to provide cheap electricity to be used as power supply for heating as well as cooking.

The provincial government must take pains to not only develop the resort expeditiously, but also to advertise the promise Kumrat Valley holds for tourists as well as locals; Secondly, the govt must refute baseless charges of the opposition. If land is being acquired from locals, every deal must be transparent and devoid of extortion or the use of pressure tactics

Secondly, the approach to the natural but unique resort comprises dilapidated roads which must not only be repaired but broadened to facilitate the tourists. Means of communication, especially mobile phone services are virtually non-existent in the Valley. PTCL as well as other mobile phone services can pick up the gauntlet for providing connectivity to the residents and tourists.

Whenever a benevolent task like the development of tourist spots is undertaken, local politics comes in its way. Some political opponents of the ruling PTI government, especially the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have begun propagating that the provincial government is trying to occupy land in the garb of tourism. The detractors are also propagating that the development of a National Park will deprive the residents of their livelihood. Nothing could be further than the truth. Instead, the natural resortís growth as a tourist resort will provide numerous opportunities to the locals to provide them means of sustenance. They can establish commercial centers, shops, hotels, cafes and provide the tourists with their services as guides, tour operators and various other vocations, giving them a chance to enhance their quality of life. If large hotels and restaurants are established, the locals can find various means of employment and better job opportunities.

The provincial government must take pains to not only develop the resort expeditiously, but also take pains to firstly advertise the boon and promise Kumrat Valley holds for tourists as well as locals and secondly, refute the baseless charges of the opposition. If land is being acquired from the locals, every deal must be transparent and devoid of extortion or the use of pressure tactics.

In the near past, Kumrat summer sports festival as well as a marathon were organized. Both events were very successful and attended by numerous participants. The three-day sports festival, which included several sports including horse riding, concluded with a splendid ceremony combined with a spectacular fireworks display.

In December 2018, Pakistanís first international marathon race carrying, a prize money of US $ 200,000, was successfully organized in Kumrat Valley. Handsome prizes were offered for the winners of different categories in the marathon. It is imperative to develop not only Kumrat Valley but also other tourist resorts in Pakistan for the people of Pakistan deprived of leisure and affording the opportunity to earn revenues by attracting international visitors.