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Gloomy picture of tourism in Balochistan

Published on 16th Feb, Edition 7, 2015

 

By virtue of its natural treasure trove, captivating scenery, significant sites of multifold importance, variety of flora and fauna, diversity of climates and unique geology, Balochistan possess huge potentials for development of tourism. Unfortunately, no efforts were made to develop tourism industry in the province at official level, since the very outset. The decision-makers in Islamabad, tried to keep Balochistan a “dark region” denying its natural endowments. Hence, the province remained unattractive for foreign tourists and investors. Tourism has been the fastest growing industry of the last decade, as disposable incomes grow throughout the world. The rapid expansion of tourism industry has brought economic benefits to many contemporary societies.

It is ironical that foreign tourists and international visitors have to get a special permission from the Home & Tribal Affairs department to visit any area outside the provincial capital. They need no special permission for visiting any area in other three provinces including northern areas. The restriction on movement of foreigners is a sheer discrimination against Balochistan, which has tremendous resources for development of foreign tourism.

The province can emerge as prime focus of attention of foreign tourists and research scientists for its archaeological and paleontological importance. Balochistan acquired international fame and attention for wonderful paleontological discoveries. The first dinosaur fossils of Pakistan were discovered in the Vitakri area of Barkhan district, in Balochistan. With the discovery, Pakistan is now among the few countries of the world, which possess dinosaur fossils and have witnessed their extinction around 65 million years ago. This discovery has generated tremendous interest not only in the world scientific community but also in the national and international electronic and print media.

One of the unresolved mysteries of geological sciences is the existence of world’s largest reptiles-the dinosaurs on planet earth during the periods of Triassic to Cretaceous and then their abrupt extinction at the end of Cretaceous. Discovery of first dinosaur fossil at Barkhan district in the province opened new vistas of study and research for vertebrate paleontologists, taxonomists and ecologists from all over the world. The world’s largest land mammal used to live 24 million years ago in Balochistan was named Baluchitherium. Fossils of the oldest Cenozoic land mammal (55 million yeas) were also discovered from Quetta.

Balochistan with an area of about 347,182 square kilometers comprises of four distinct climate regions — tropical coastal region, sub tropical continental plateau, sub tropical continental low lands and sub tropical continental high lands. The 770km long coastal belt along the Arabian Sea linking Lasbela and Gwadar districts can be developed as lovely tourist site. Fascinating beach of Gwadar, Jabl-e-Zarin beach at Pasni, 20km long Jiwani near Iranian port city of ‘Chabahar’, Daran beach at Jiwani and many sites along coastal belt may be converted to a tourist rendezvous.

Makran coast has great economic potential. Makran Coastal Highway is the proposed northern route. It is the principal transport corridor. The coastal highway will help tap tourism potential of Gwadar and other districts sharing the coastal belt of Balochistan. The virgin beaches of Makran have immense tourism potential. The attractive landscape of Makran along the coastal highway is of immense importance for the development of tourism. For instance, the geology of 75-km Buzi Pass is considered a natural site of tourist attraction. Another tourist attraction in Makran is the live ‘mud volcanoes’ throwing a mixture of water and mud, but no burning lava.

The geography of Balochistan with five ecological zones plus a host of spots and sites of immense historical importance make the province a bonanza of attention for foreign tourists. Historically, Makran has an importance in Muslim history as the Muslim conquest of it took place under Hazrat Umar (R.A) Caliphate. One can still visualize the sights of historical Muslim invasions of Makran through the signs still preserved in Turbat.

 

Ziarat with its attractive scenery, healthy and cool environment, Juniper forests and historical importance endears tourists. Ziarat residency is the place where Quaid-e-Azam spent his last days of life. Ziarat is a hill station at an altitude of 8500 feet above sea level in Balochistan. Juniper forest of Ziarat is second largest in the world spreading over an area of 51,335 hectares. The wildlife here comprises of wolf, Markhor and wild birds. Overall, Ziarat can be developed into a remarkable tourist site if serious efforts are made at official level.

The hammerhead rocks in Makran, marble rocks in Lorali and evenly colored mountains in Khuzdar are also of great tourist attraction by virtue of their remarkable beauty. Archaeological discoveries in Balochistan like Mehargarh are older than that of Manjo Daro in Sindh.

High profile and quality restaurants, hotels and motels are essential to promote tourism in a region of tourist attraction. Only the Serena hotel in the provincial capital provides international standard services to the tourists. There is a need to establish more such hotels in other districts of Balochistan.

Pakistan can earn millions of rupees in terms of foreign exchange by developing tourism industry in Balochistan. Infrastructure, organization and management are the key areas relating to the development of tourism in the province. The tourism issues also need to be reviewed from a sociological perspective. The government must take significant steps to exploit fully the coastal tourism potential of the province.

Suggestions

— The restriction on the movement of foreign tourists and visitors in Balochistan should immediately be lifted.

— Like other three provinces, the Government should establish Tourism Development Corporation in Balochistan.

— Government should encourage the participation of private sector for tourism development in the province offering it incentives and necessary concessions in this regard.

— Information centers for guidance of tourists should be established in various districts of the province.

— Necessary infrastructure including transport and communication, hotels, motels and restaurants should be developed and improved in the province.

— The sites of tourism attraction all over the province should be developed furnished and facilitated with necessary services.

— The law and order problem hinders any strategy to develop tourism sector in the province. The government should take foolproof measures to provide security to the foreign tourists and researchers, who want to visit and explore the province.

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