PESHAWAR: The dilapidated condition of the road from Mangalwar to Malam Jabba, the lack of an even road from Bahrain till Kalam and around an 80-year-old outdated Madyan bridge are considered to be the main hurdles in promoting tourism in Swat Valley.
The floods of 2010 complicated the situation when gushing water from Swat River swept away a major chunk of the road, from Kalam to Bahrain and Bahrain to Fatehpur. Although people, particularly from the trade and business circles from all over Swat, have been demanding suitable roads since a long time, complete repair work has not taken place.
However, the relevant authorities from the civil administration and armed forces constructed part of the road from Jaray till Madyan bridge and widened the road from Landaki till Madyan bridge, that passes through Shamozai, Kanju and Matta. These roads made the situation somewhat bearable during Eidul Fitr when the traffic was thick.
During Eidul Fitr different parts of Swat, particularly its snow-covered mountainous regions such as Malam Jabba, Kalam, Mahodand, Kandol Dand, Speena Cheena and Gabeen Cheena received thousands of tourists.
Not only were most of these visitors were from Swat and other parts of Malakand Division, young people from Peshawar, Mardan and the rest of K-P also thronged the valley.
Besides K-P, hundreds of families from Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and rest of the country headed to Swat to enjoy Eid at the famous tourists spots.
Other than Swat, people also visited Naran and Shogran in Mansehra, Galiyat and Thandiyani in Abbottabad.
Hazara DIG Saeed Khan Wazir said around 0.2 million vehicles entered the famous tourist spots in the region.
These people were able to enjoy their trip due to improved conditions of roads and proper tourism infrastructure.
However, a limited number of people were spotted at Kumrat Valley in Upper Dir. This is because the recent floods wreaked havoc in the district. Moreover, Chitral also had a thin crowd due to the same issue.
Some locals confined their trips to Buner, Tarbela and Gomal.
However, compared to Hazara, lack of a proper traffic control plan and security checks caused problems for tourists in Swat.
Right from Mingora city till Malam Jabba, Madayan and Kalam, queues of vehicles remained on the road from dawn till dust due to heavy traffic. Similar was the situation in Fiza Ghat, on outskirts of Mingora.
The tourists were exposed to the worst kind of situation upon their arrival in Madyan where one of the challenges included the outdated bridge that could not bear more than one vehicle at a time.
This situation forced many to go back enjoying the pleasant weather of Bahrain and Kalam.
The conditions of the 34-kilometre Bahrain-Kalam and 37-kilometre Mangalwar-Malam Jabba roads could be judged from the fact that it took people four to six hours to cover it.
Although the government has tendered the construction of these two important roads, the firm concerned was allegedly delaying the completion of the projects.
Moreover, the owners and managements of hotels and restaurants also exploited the situation during Eid days.
They were charging room rents as per their choice and were servng substandard food to the guests. There was no check, which confirms the involvement of custodians of law and order in swindling of visitors.
Except for a few, almost all the hotels, motels and guest houses lacked experienced and polite staffers, thus adding to the displeasure of visitors. Even the local government institutions, particular town/tehsil administrations took advantage of the influx of tourists by charging Rs50 on every vehicle as an entry fee at different points.
Tourism is considered a major source of revenue in most parts of K-P in general, Malakand, including Swat, in particular. It could be made more profitable both for the public and private sector if conditions of roads were improved, outdated bridges would be repaired and a monitoring system be put in place to keep a check on hotels and restaurants.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2016.
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