A recent World Bank study has warned that tourism in Pakistan’s ecologically-fragile areas has significantly increased the stress on the environment. As these areas become more and more polluted, the surreal and enchanting glory of nature is slowly being diminished and destroyed. As a result, the natural habitat of the diverse species of animals, birds and marine life present in the county may become endangered, or even worse, be driven to the brink of extinction. What sets Pakistan apart from other tourist countries is the “spellbinding grandeur and sheer simplicity” that nature presents, almost elevating it to a spiritual level. However, the rich mountain landscape, the scintillating glaciers and the exquisite valleys are being marred with filth. The mountain areas in particular have witnessed sudden spikes in the quantity and quantity of waste generated during tourist season — which is mostly plastic or solid waste. This glaring revelation points to the lack of recycling and disposal system in these areas. It is astounding that the concerned authorities have overlooked the most important factor that helps sustain the tourism industry.
While a simple and efficient waste disposal system can help fix half of the problem, the other half of lies in trying to figure out the most sustainable method of disposal. In this regard, solid waste can be either be used as fertilisers in the agriculture sector or brunt to produce electricity in these areas. Plastic waste, on the other hand, will pose a huge problem as most of it isn’t biodegradable and cannot be simply dumped in landfills — since it takes anywhere between 20 to 500 years for it to decompose. For this, the government needs to restrict the use of plastic and provide other suitable alternatives.
Such solutions have multifarious benefits. They will not only help in developing local industries, protect tourism, and generate foreign exchange, but also aid in the fight against the all-encompassing problem of climate change and global warning.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2021.