Reviving tourism in Swat
Known for its dazzling beauty with high-peak mountains, lush green valleys, spectacular waterfalls and magical lakes, Swat Valley has remained a tourist’s paradise. Containing thousands of years of history, the valley is not only known for its natural beauty but also for its rich cultural heritage and various civilisations which sprang there.
Apart from summer tourism, the valley offers much more for winter tourists. Every year, the skiing slope of Malam Jabba is swarmed with tourists who enjoy the serene environment and hills covered in snow.
Tourism, apart from agriculture, is the backbone of Swat’s economy. More than half of its population contributes to it in one way or another. Unfortunately, in 2006, Swat Valley saw the ugly face of terrorism when Mullah Fazlullah spread his venomous agenda under the pretext of imposing his own version of Sharia law. Since then, the tourism industry collapsed and hotels and other connecting businesses were halted.
To add further misery to the valley, the July 2010 floods devastated the area completely, leaving half of its population stranded. The famous tourist resorts of Madyan, Bahrain and Kalam valleys were left disconnected when their linking roads were completely swept away.
Both the federal and provincial governments pushed for the revival of tourism in Swat Valley but no tangible steps were taken for streamlining this mission.
However, the Pakistan Army, after eradicating militancy and restoring peace, has taken some initiatives by organising different events to attract tourists. These included a peace festival last year and a ski and smile festival in March to boost the incomes of the people connected with the industry.
Such festivals are positive steps towards revival of tourism but it is most important that the government rehabilitate and reconstruct Swat’s access points. Roads are in poor condition and should be repaired for easy access. Both the army and the government promised to reopen Saidu Sharif Airport but to no avail. The airport should be opened this year so that tourists can travel to Swat through a short and secure route.
A proper security system should be implemented so that the many checkpoints can be removed. Finally, permanent bridges should replace the makeshift bridges, as they once stood prior to the destruction.
Read more by Fazal here.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.