.. by Shams Uddin, Booni
Today we celebrate International Mountain Day 2021. The theme of the day is ‘Sustainable Mountain Tourism’ aimed at eradicating poverty by harnessing the touristy potentials of the mountain regions but without compromising on the natural/ land resources simultaneously.
Northern Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan & Chitral (GBC), is blessed with beautiful snow-capped mountains that attract a large number of mountaineers, adventurists, expeditions, and trekkers from around the world every year. The mountain valleys across GBC are attractive tourist destinations, and it is believed that they take second place in global popularity to attract tourists after coastal regions.
By carefully studying the evolution of tourism in the GBC it becomes clear that tourism was started by international adventurists, trekkers, explorers, and mountaineers, who came to the region around 200 years back to map the towering peaks, mountain chains, passes, and routes of the area. The credit of mapping and researching to generate authentic technical knowledge on the mountains goes to those daring adventurists and mountaineers. Salute to them!
On this important day, the message for tour operators, High Altitude Guides (HAG), porters, and transporters is to realize the importance of mountains as a tourism product and protect the natural environment and fragile ecology of the mountainous region. We must commit ourselves to keep the basecamps of the mountain peaks pollution-free and instruct our clients to follow suit. We must work with those service providers whose product development policies and priorities are switched to sustainable consumption of natural resources.
We must understand the towering mountains do not have value without the glaciers, ice, and snow. The value is added when the mountains glow under the pale light of the sun in the morning and sunset. This magic spell of nature awe-inspires the tourists and compels them to visit the region again and again. It is the engaging power of mountains and glaciers.
Further, the glaciers on the mountains are the potential source to nourish the agriculture of the lowlands so vital to sustain the livelihoods of the mountain communities.
Let’s pledge ourselves to protect our mountains and glaciers and transfer this valuable natural heritage to the next generation without further destruction. .. Shams Uddin, Booni, Chitral, 12 Dec 2021