Unregulated tourism poses serious threat to picturesque attractions’ ecology: Experts
PESHAWAR: Experts at a recent conference underlined the need for a dedicated eco-tourism policy for protecting cultural and biological diversity of picturesque tourist attractions across the country. Massive sensitization of all the stakeholders on eco-tourism was imperative to purge the tourist attractions of haphazard constructions, posing serious threat to the eco-system of those places, Member of National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) Aftab Rana stressed at the one-day seminar. The conference titled ‘Ecotourism for rural econmy’ was arranged by Akhtar Hameed Khan, National Center for Rural Development (AHKNCRD) in collaboration with African-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO). Aftab Rana said mass tourism was found to augment water consumption, litter and waste, and air pollution at major tourist resorts of the northern areas. Intensive and coordinated efforts were vital to promote environment conversion and job creation in the areas, attracting domestic and foreign tourists. He said there was need to draw difference between conventional and eco-tourism so that specific initiatives could be taken to bring sustainability to the sector by diversifying the local economies of tourism-specific areas. The NTCB member said the country had enormous potential of eco-tourism that was needed to be exploited for development of rural economies and uplift of locals’ living standards. “Pakistan is mainly a rural country and tourism can greatly contribute for socio-economic development of those areas which are otherwise neglected,” he remarked. Aftab, who is also president of Sustainable Tourism Foundation, mentioned the initiatives taken by his organization to promote sustainable tourism in the country. The initiatives including trips to Indus river, Swat valley, Kalash and Gilgit Baltistan, was effectively empowering the locals through provision of jobs, in addition to protection of cultural and biological diversity of those areas, he added. Drive for Economic and Environment Development Director, Muhammad Junaid Ghauri asked the government to introduce a separate eco-tourism policy to identify environmental consequences, emanating from increased tourism activities across the country. He said mass tourism was a major challenge to cope with at the moment as it resulted in massive hotels constructions, deprivation of locals from financial benefits and waste generation at prominent tourist destinations. He said multiple initiatives including marathon cultural and environmental awareness drives, promotion of positive experiences for visitors and hosts, financial benefits for locals, and conversion of wildlife and local traditions were keys to ensure sustainable tourism. He said protected areas integration should be ensured with local participation. Ghauri also stressed the need for promoting women’s role in tourism promotion so that they could contribute to national development effectively. Manager Marketing and Promotions, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Malik Babur Javed informed the participants that the federal government had finalized a ten-year roadmap to invigorate the sector by ensuring maximum utilization of its huge resources for sustained economic growth, poverty alleviation and reduced social inequalities. - APP І