It took only three days for the Galliyat Development Authority (GDA) to ignore an accident with the chairlift in Ayubia that nearly killed a woman and her child.
On Wednesday, Afia Bibi and her five-year-old son Hamza Faisal fell when the pulley of a chairlift snapped from its rope.
Abbottabad DCO Syed Imtiaz Shah ordered the service to be suspended after the incident. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour also ordered an inquiry.
Even though the inquiry has not yet been completed, the GDA allowed the chairlift to resume operations on Friday.
Bibi and her son were lucky in that trolley had just left the loading area when the accident occurred. They fell no more than 10 feet, according to witnesses. Even then, Bibi received severe injuries to her spinal cord. She was first taken to Ayub Medical Complex in Abbottabad and then transferred to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad.
But a GDA official justified the decision to resume the service by saying that it was the “peak season” and they could not “deprive” the tourists coming to Ayubia, where the chairlift remains the primary attraction. The official insisted, “Keeping the service shut for such a long time is unjustifiable.”
He added that they had “confirmed” that all the trolleys in the chairlift are in working condition and are safe to use. Another GDA official, asking not to be named, confirmed that no criminal case was registered against the operators of the chairlift.
Abbottabad DCO Shah explained that even though he had suspended the operations, GDA has the final say. However, he added that the GDA was responsible was ensuring that the chairlift is safe for use before letting it operate again.
However GDA Director Ikhlaq Khan, when contacted, denied that they had allowed the chairlift to resume operations. He said that the matter was being probed into and they will not resume the service until safety of the chairlift was guaranteed.
Spread over nearly 33 square kilometres, Ayubia National Park, popularly known as Ayubia, comprises four picturesque hill stations, Ghora Daka, Khanaspur, Khaira Gali and Changla Gali.
The current chairlift, situated on a spur in thick alpine forests, was installed in the 1960s at Ghora Daka. Having a length of one and a half kilometres, the manually operated chairlift consists of 55 two-seater units and attracts tourists of all ages and income groups from across the country. The two-way trip takes about half an hour.
In winter, the units hover over a beautiful white blanket covering the hills beneath; picnickers from all over the country flock to Ayubia for the splendid view.
The chairlift’s condition, however, with the passage of time and poor maintenance, has deteriorated and it is no longer considered safe for people.
An official of the GDA, on the condition of anonymity, said that the chairlift has been in “shambles” for the last several years. The provincial government had allocated Rs500 million for the project under the Annual Development Programme 2011-12. The project was supposed to be completed by the summers of 2012, but that never happened.
The official said that proposals for the project were sought from private contractors in October last year. However, the official added, the process was under way when the picnic season started. The GDA decided to suspend the project and resume the chairlift service after necessary repairs and maintenance. So after being shutdown for three months, the chairlift was renovated at a cost of Rs3.5 million, and opened to public some two weeks back.
The official added that the authority had also initiated an inquiry against officials who supervised the repairs.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2012.