Even as the country is desperately trying to improve its international tourism receipts after years of uncertainty following the scourge of terrorism, we seem to be losing the battle against environmental hazards in some of our scenic resort towns and villages. Elders in the village of Ogdai near Mingora have been repeatedly warning the authorities about the presence of a waste and garbage dumping site that poses a threat to flora and fauna in and around the Swat River. Yet their warnings have gone unheeded as the once-thriving tourist attraction has been turned into a giant garbage site where thousands of houseflies and other pestilence have found a permanent home. Some 1,500 tons of garbage is dumped along the Swat River in Ogdai village every day. The river itself is being poisoned — not slowly but rapidly — by different contaminants. Local inhabitants believe the tehsil municipal administration (TMA) is at fault, citing clear violations of environmental regulations. Its tolerance of a garbage dumping site near the river is truly inexplicable considering the environmental risks. Famed for its fruit orchards, Ogdai is a key producer of premium quality peaches, apples and strawberries. But pollution hazards are cutting into both productivity and profits.
Villagers are angry that they can no longer drink or swim in the polluted river. However, one cannot discount other factors for contributing to the hazard such as the existence of parasites in the water. It is entirely possible that domestic waste — usually generated by tens of thousands people in the valley — could be contaminating the river via water channels. In other tourism hotspots of Swat the spectre of pollution is all too real.
It is obvious that the garbage site at Ogdai must be shut down immediately. Proper studies also need to be undertaken to examine the problem of pollution more closely. Steps taken now to safeguard the river from all contaminants can guarantee the future of tourism in Swat.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2017.
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