Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig
The PTI government in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa has completed the Swat Motorway up to a point but no further measures are in sight for there has been opposition from certain quarters against the use of agricultural lands in the Swat valley.
There is a group who has taken it as their duty to oppose the project just like the one started by Sufi Muhammad of some years back. There are vested interests and like the opposition to Kalabagh Dam by certain circles, there are groups who turn no stone unturned to oppose projects of public value. Their plea is the loss of orchards and crop lands in the valley and they have submitted an alternative to build the motorway on the riverbed which no sane person can support as the river is not manageable and no mega project could be built just on the banks of the river that rises and falls many times during the year.
On the other hand, the expressway plan to Dir from Chakdara is still under consideration but the consideration should be concluded and work to be commenced on this project without delay. There should be a decision making session also not only consideration and reconsideration indefinitely, or Again and again during the term of the provincial government which completed the first phase of Swat Motorway.
The roads in Chitral envisaged to promote tourism in this region, is also undergoing the same process. The Kalash valley road has been in the pipeline for more than ten years but the work on the road has been commenced and it cannot improve the flow of tourism as it is already overcrowded and mass tourism is not the right target for the limited area of Kalash valleys as it will bring more pollution than income and benefits. The flow of tourists to the Kalash valleys must be under a control system and a specific number should be allowed to enter the target valleys or the damages shall outrun the benefits.
The roads to other valleys of Chitral have to be improved noticeably i.e. widened and shortened by cutting the numerous bends and U-turns that bring speed to zero. Unless the roads to all the valleys of Chitral, including Terich Mir base camps, are improved no promotion or increase in the number of tourists is possible.
There are thousands of eager tourists – both foreigners and domestic – who want to go to the base camps of Terich Mir and Saraghrar in the High Hindu Kush and their sister peaks to experience the unimaginable and unseen presence of the fairies who reside in those mountains. That charm should not be denied to the eager and curious adventure tourists but the problem is the position of the existing road system. It is at present, only 5-6 feet wide and 4×4 vehicles can only attempt that high altitude valleys but cars and as well as wider vehicles cannot pass through that road.
Widening and improvement of the roads can be a facility for the potential tourism market and the KP government has got the responsibility to improve infrastructure and must work to improve the road system in the valleys of Chitral to make things easier for adventure tourists. The road via Lowari tunnel to Shandur Pass is to be a highway but the Torkho road, still very late has to be taken up by the provincial government. That valley is also a part of KP, it is not outside the borders of upper Chitral..is it?