Visiting picnic spots and eating out, especially during public holidays, used to be an effervescent trait of Pakistani society, but over the years, socio-economic pressures, law and order and above all the terrorist activities, have equally disturbed the life of the hoi polloi in Pakistan. However, the habit and desire remain as many still yearn to spend a few minutes with family, either on the lakeside, or some other tourist spot.
In the face of tiresome and multiplying problems, every citizen want to reinvigorate their spirit by visiting tourist spots, a perspective is corroborated by the growing number of tourists at almost every picnic point.
Among the picnic spots in Hazara Division, Tarbela Lake is considered the most attractive one, as people from different walks of life and income groups always come to visit to enjoy the serenity and cool water of the country’s biggest manmade lake. On public holidays, hundreds of picnickers from different cities throng to Tarbela with their families, especially on Eid.
These picnickers are seen cooking and eating on the lakeside, while many of them also like to take boat rides on the wavelets of blue water in Tarbela.
Notwithstanding the fact that boat operators hardly offer any security arrangements to travellers in case of an emergency in the water; boat trips are comparatively cheaper here than at Khanpur Dam or other waterside picnic spots in the country. “They don’t have life jackets or divers on the boats, which can make the ride a bit risky,” said Zarmina Qureshi a picnicker who said that she was a regular visitor to Tarbela Lake, as it is the only picnic spot that offers real entertainment.
She said that the most frequently visited tourist spot at Tarbela Lake has only a pakora vendor to serve visitors, which is proof of the lax attitude of the authorities concerned. She said that the government must invite investors and offer quality food and snacks, which would not only serve the needs of picnickers, but also earn some revenue for the national exchequer.
Saeed Khan, another picnicker, felt that as the provincial government has set aside millions of rupees for the promotion of eco-tourism, it should develop the lakeside area on modern lines and fix an entry fee at the lakeside area. He said that since this tourist spot has the potential to be self-sustaining, the collection of fees such as license fees for boats operating on the lake should be spent on the development of this beautiful area.
The 97 sq km Tarbela Lake is filled to its maximum conservation level of 472 metres during the third week of August every year and maintains this level for over two months. During peak season from July to September, when water touches the last boundary near Khalabat Township, picnickers can easily get access to boats and take ride at affordable rates.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.