Lack of facilities irritates tourists visiting Kalam Valley
KALAM, Swat: It was widely believed that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa might have learned from the past and could have made better arrangements this time for tourists coming to Swat from all over the country during the Eid holidays, but unfortunately , this did not happen and thousands of people suffered due to mismanagement and poor infrastructure.
A high-level meeting was held ahead of Eid, where senior government officials decided to facilitate tourists’ visit to tourist destinations in the province. Every year, especially during Eid festivals, hundreds of thousands of people come to the hilly areas of Swat, Kumrat in Upper Dir and Kaghan and Naran in Mansehra districts and every year they have to suffer mainly in due to poor management, poor traffic management plan and lack of coordination between relevant ministries.
The Swat highway and the extension of the highway to Sindh had shortened the distance between Swat and the city centers. Similarly, the Hazara highway has reduced the journey by several hours to the famous tourist sites of Kaghan and Naran.
These are the reasons why a large number of tourists have visited these places in recent years. The Pakistani government Tehreek-e-Insaf and its central leadership have always proudly shared photos of eye-catching tourist attractions in Swat, Kumrat and Naran, but they have never bothered to take practical steps to promote tourism.
Despite the fact that the province has huge tourism potential, neither the PTI government in the center nor in the province has bothered to build roads and bridges in these areas. Swat has dozens of tourist attractions, but access is a major issue.
The Kalam valley itself is the hub of tourism as it offers many tourist spots to visit. Local people are exploring new places to attract tourists. Over the years, tourists have found it difficult to visit the Kalam Valley due to the dilapidated Bahrain-Kalam road.
The then Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz government had allocated a fund of Rs 10 billion for the Bahrain-Kalam road. The contract was awarded to three contractors.
Construction works on the Bahrain-Kalam road were completed in 2018, but the government failed to spend the remaining allocated amount of Rs 180 million for the construction of the remaining 13 bridges on the main road.
It is because of these incomplete bridges that have caused problems for tourists. The distance between Bahrain and Kalam is 35 kilometers and the road is in good condition but it took tourists five to six hours to reach Kalam. Normally it takes an hour.
Incomplete bridges are an endless problem and have caused inconvenience to tourists. A government official wishing not to be named told The News that he left Islamabad at 11am with his family and it took 16 hours to reach Kalam.
“Thursday at 4 p.m. I was in Bahrain, but don’t ask me what happened next. There were no traffic police, no emergency service and not even a government official available to help,” he said.
“I delayed my trip to Kalam for a day. I thought there would be no rush, but it seemed like the whole country was on its way to Kalam,” he recalls. He said he was grateful to the hotel management who provided him with a room he had already booked and they did not charge any extra money for it.
“They provided us with delicious food at 2:30 a.m. and tea,” the tourist remarked. He was one of thousands of tourists who had similar stories to tell about their journey between Bahrain and Kalam.
A Hafeezur Rahman from Darra Adamkhel also visited the Kalam valley with his cousins. He also complained about the “poor arrangements” made by the government.
“Kalam is a lovely place considering its beauty, but the government must help tourists by building bridges,” he said. The Kalam police did a great job keeping order, managing traffic and politely providing useful information to tourists.
An assistant sub-inspector was asked by a passerby to issue tickets to unruly drivers, but he smiled and responded by saying “these are our guests and guests are not fined”. Tourists from Punjab and Sindh have appreciated the cooperation of Swat police in general and Kalam in particular.
Amir Muqam, provincial leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and adviser to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, said he had ordered the National Highways Authority (NHA) to start work on the remaining 13 bridges on the road. Kalam-Bahrain.
A standoff between Amir Muqam and former federal communications minister Murad Saeed is believed to have delayed the completion of the bridges. Amir Muqam is an entrepreneur and his construction company was awarded the project to build the bridges on the Bahrain-Kalam road, which he says was canceled by Murad Saeed at that time.
Elders and residents of Kalam had once announced the launching of an agitation in front of Parliament in Islamabad and the filing of an FIR against Murad Saeed for “causing the delays”.
The only facility available in the scenic valley is uninterrupted electricity. We would like to thank the Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP), a non-governmental organization, for providing electricity to the people of the Kalam Valley as well as to all the hotels.
Kalam had no power supply when instant foods took over in 2010 the power station established by the development organization Sarhad Hydel. The SRSP showed up and restored power to the valley and rebuilt the entire power plant. It also faces a number of problems and the government has yet to recognize its contribution and help solve the problems it faces.
SRSP management would be tired of this extra burden but Wapda could not come to take responsibility. Previously, when the SRSP failed to restore power, Kalam had no tourist attractions and hotels used generators for lighting at night.