Khewra salt mines: Healing heights

With terrorism eroding tourism industry, these mines stand out as a blessing for patients with respiratory problems.

Shazia Mehboob October 14, 2013
The world’s second largest salt mines claim to have healing powers in addition to their scenic beauty. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: The Khewra Salt Mines are the world’s second largest salt mines. Spread over 186 miles lengthwise, they rise to an average 2,200 feet. These scenic beauties produce over 850,000 tonnes of rock salt annually. And that’s not all. They have the reputation of having healing powers, too. Owing to health benefits of its micro-climate, the mines have a twelve-bed therapy centre called the Khewra Asthma Clinic. It was established in December, 2005, by Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) but it became fully operational in March, 2007.

While terrorism has taken its toll, badly hurting the tourism industry in Pakistan, these mines still have great scope as a tourist centre but only if they are properly facilitated and maintained. They can attract the asthma patients.

Breathing free

Khewra Asthma Clinic is the first of its kind in Pakistan. It has been established in line with similar resorts in Poland and Ukraine.

With antibacterial salt particles in sterile environment, breathing in the clinic air helps clear out air passages in the lungs of those having respiratory problems, especially the asthma patients. They are required to spend around 110 hours in the clinic during ten days of treatment, which costs Rs6,300.

Dr Akhlaq Bukhari, the senior doctor at the asthma clinic, says no medication is used.

“There is a 70-80 percent recovery for the young, and 50 percent for people above the age of 40,” he explains. “At the clinic, 35-40 patients come from all over the country.”

Tourist resort

The clinic opened up in 2005 but the tourist resort was established as early as 2002.

“Local and foreign visitors come to the site all the year round,” says a PMDC official. The mines have enchanting sight to see and a train that carries tourists around.

About 160 kilometres from Islamabad, coming through the Motorway, the visitors have to traverse a single-track, dusty and uneven road that takes them to the mines.

There are no quality shops or cafes, and no secure parking lots. The unsightly market does not have good souvenirs or gifts. The site itself has great potential to cater to a burgeoning market.

Silent sanctuary

On the inside, the mines are cool and serene, in contrast to the hot exterior.

Although the tourist guide’s dimly-lit torch does not provide much clarity of vision, the images of Pakistan’s luminaries and famous landmarks, can be seen. All of them chiselled out of rock salt or made of hard rock salt blocks.

With 40km cumulative length of all the driveways, the Khewra Salts Mines are a spectacular sight that can make the country proud. With a little more care and maintenance.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2013.


Munda | 10 years ago | Reply

I recently (September 2013) had the pleasure of finally been able to see the famous Khewra Mines. As has been described in other articles, this second largest mined salt reserve is an asset for Pakistan. While the greatest benefit is the procurement of the mineral, the other benefit of pride for the citizens has been ignored...........tourism. Both local and foreign. From the uninviting ticketing stalls to the poorly passage upto the entrance of the mine, is a poor reflection of what time and effort has been put to attract the citizenry, least should I compare this to how foreign countries capitalize their assets. Even the postings are written in poor English and in an uninviting format. We were greeted by two gentlemen as required guides. After the usual pleasantries, we headed to the inside of the mine. The politeness of the guides and description of the mines was a pleasant surprise and invigorating, if not surprising, at what nature has bestowed Pakistan. Yes, there were the usual captivating carvings, such as the masjid (an enclosure of salt bricks), and Minar e Pakistan. After a short while, we came-up to a wide opening, dotted with chairs and tables in a cafeteria. This is where you can sit and nourish and quench your thirst. At a casual stop and go pace, it had taken us approx. 30 min. to get to this point. Instead of expecting benches for those not very feeble in their walking, I was surprised at this amenity. Frankly, in this short span, neither was I hungry or thirsty What was yet to come where the salt lakes, a natural occurrence of water peculation through eons of time. While the awe of nature at its best was being assimilated, the utter disgust of floating plastic bottles from, the cafeteria was starkly felt. This sight was choking! As I'm sure my disgust was about to be reverberated to the guides, common-sense prevailed as reserved silence, as they reflected the same thought: as an unfortunate sight that they have got used to, over the years. This was further reflected as a lack of funds to clean it up. Towards the end of the tour, the guides bid goodbye and took some backroad in the cave tunnel much before the exit. Much as we were the last of the visitors for the day,at the exit/entrance, we could not locate any mine personnel, as we were asked to report to them as a count of exit........ least we might be locked in the mine until the morning-crew came to work, the next day. Though there wasn't a Gift Shop at the exit, there were numerous vendors on the road leading to the premises of the Khewra Mines. On the way out of the area, while I had the warm feeling of having had the pleasure of visiting this famous salt mine within the country I love, I had to curtail the disgust of how it has been presented. This, like many other monuments in Pakistan, are in such a pathetic condition, that one wonders why is it so? From the experience of the diaspora who visit their motherland Pakistan, they bring comparisons from the foreign lands, resulting in frustrations. Where can one default and who? From the height of illiteracy, lack of modernity and lack of resources, come the common acceptance of its citizenry. While they have difficulty affording the common worldly requirements, this is a luxury they can afford to ignore in how it looks, let alone how its maintained. The respective authorities have little input from what the demands of the public might be. There is no mechanism for this interest from them or the privilege of the public to give, their feedback. As we all know, there are only a few renowned sites around the country that could be the trailways for the Government to emphasize their importance of national pride. Even though we are a poor nation, within the realms of trust, honesty, these institutions could be funded by bare minimums, but held to high standards of marketing (don't use PIA as a scapegoat). Within these marketing standards, creating a pride for the common citizen, would bring immense popularity of the heritage within the country. Though not critical, I hope these national sites, like the essential roads, will bring a change to Pakistan. "With all thy faults, I love thee still" (quote: Winston Churchill of Britain during WorldWar II)

sattar rind | 10 years ago | Reply


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