GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government’s decision to hold a festival has created unrest among nature lovers who feel the event could prove detrimental to the environment.
The area is home to rare wildlife, wildflowers and a wide variety of butterflies.
Outrage followed an advertisement released to newspapers by the tourism department that invited seal quotations for service delivery for a two-day “ecofriendly festival” at Deosai.
The festival is scheduled for August 6 and 7. It is expected to attract local and foreign tourists to Deosai, the world’s second highest plateau.
It was declared a national park in 1993 to protect the Himalayan brown bear and its habitat. The attempt proved to be a success and created a hope for survival of the species in Deosai where its numbers increased from just 19 in 1993 to 40 in 2005. However, the bear still remains endangered in 2016.
“This is a ridiculous decision as it will destroy the habitat of many creatures,” Waseem Samad, a natural lover and civil society activist¸ said. He spearheaded campaigns on social media to save nature.
In one of his posts, Samad argued,“No country in the world would arrange [such] a festival at a place blessed with biodiversity without prior risk assessment.”
He said playing polo, beating drums and dancing in middle of Deosai will only pollute the fragile environment. The pages on the social media attracted comments which disapproved of the festival on the plateau.
Karim Tahir, a conservationist, urged authorities to respect international laws, to which Pakistan is a signatory, that ban such activities inside a national park.
“Wildlife has rights and it is our responsibly to protect those [species] which have been declared threatened or endangered.”
A government official, on the other hand, said the activity would be ecofriendly. However, details were yet to be finalised. In 2015, the government planned a car rally in the same area, but later suspended the race for reasons yet to be made public.
The Deosai plains are also home to the Himalayan ibex, red fox, golden marmot, locally called the Phia, grey wolf, Ladakh urial, snow leopard and over 124 resident and migratory birds.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2016.
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