Awash in white: Tourists throng Fort Munro to enjoy snowfall

Complain of lack of facilities; hill station has been without power for five days


PHOTOS: TAHIR JAVED, OWAIS QARNI

FORT MUNRO: Fort Munro – the only hill station in the Sulaiman Range – received its third spell of snowfall this year. People from various parts of the province thronged the area to catch a glimpse of the snow-blanketed hill station.

Located in the Dera Ghazi Khan district of South Punjab, the hill station is at a height of 6,470 feet above sea level. It connects Punjab with Balochistan and was originally known as ‘Anari Mol' (Hilltop with pomegranates).

The snowfall started in the wee hours of January 30. It is the third day of continuous snowfall which has covered the mountains in white. This is the third year in a row that the hill resort received snowfall.

A large number of families and their children were spotted enjoying the weather and making snowmen. Six-year-old Zainab told The Express Tribune that she had come from Multan with her siblings and parents. "Fort Munro is a blessing and a favourite spot for tourism for those who cannot go to Murree and the northern areas to enjoy the snowfall," said Zainab's father, Mohammad Tariq.

Zahida Shah, a tourist from Muzaffargarh, said travelling to Murree or the northern areas was not easy when only a couple of days were at their disposal. "Fort Munro is a place we can visit easily and also not spend a huge amount on a holiday."



No facility at hill resort

Despite the beautiful scenery and weather, Fort Munro bears a deserted look with its closed markets. Residents try to move to less cold areas like Dera Ghazi Khan. Tourists coming to see the snowfall face a lot of problems due to the lack of basic facilities as hotels, restaurants, and markets remained closed.

They also faced a lack of civic facilities, including drinking water. All these factors combined affected the image of the destination. The lack of water and electricity merely adds to the miseries of visitors and locals.

One of the tourists complained that the authorities had provided no facilities for them. He demanded that the government make efforts to ensure fuel, gas and other facilities for tourists and shopkeepers.

Asma Chaudhary, a visitor, said it was a great opportunity to view the snowfall, but the lack of food and water spoiled the enjoyment.

Some other tourists, including Karamat Ali Sheikh, Mohammad Tahir Mairaj and Asif Gillani, compared Kohe-e-Sulaiman to heaven. They were enjoying the trip, but the lack of facilities left a stain on their enjoyment.

"The government needs to take steps to provide facilities as that is the way they will be able to promote tourism," said Sheikh.

Gillani said public toilets and waiting areas should be built between the routes of Fort Munro to facilitate the tourists. "Measures should be taken to keep traffic flowing until the completion of the Steel Bridge."

Without electricity

A lot of visitors returned home without the chance for complete enjoyment as there had been no power for the last five days. As a result, a water shortage also persisted in the area..

Dera Ghazi Khan Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Khawaja Mohammad Younis, who was also visiting Fort Munro, told The Express Tribune that tourism was considered an industry. “There are wonderful tourist spots in South Punjab, especially in Dera Ghazi Khan. However, they need to be developed and efforts should be made by the government to provide facilities to the tourists of the hill resort,” he said.

He demanded Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar issue an order to release funds so that the chairlift project in Fort Munro is completed.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2019.

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