KHAPLU: For the first time in the history of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region, the government arranged a grand jirga at a popular tourist destination, Fairy Meadows, to create environmental awareness among the local population over the weekend.
A lush green plateau located at the western edge of the Himalayas, Fairy Meadows is counted among the most picturesque tourist resorts in northern Pakistan that is located in Diamer district and offers the best northside view of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth tallest mountain.
“Fairy Meadows was only visited by foreign climbers and trekkers in the past who used to protect the environment,” Yasir Hussain, deputy director at the Gilgit-Baltistan tourism department, told Arab News on Sunday. “For the last few years, however, this place has also become popular with domestic tourists … [who] don’t normally take care of the environment like foreigners.”
“The jirga system is very strong in Diamer district,” he continued. “So, the gathering was arranged by the government to take people into confidence [regarding] plans and policies to protect the environment.”
He noted that much of the land was state-owned in Gilgit-Baltistan, though this was not the case in Diamer district where local residents owned private properties.
“Without taking the people or community into confidence,” he added, “the government cannot make any policy.”
Speaking to Arab News, Fiaz Ahmed, the deputy commissioner of Diamer district, said the government wanted to improve the infrastructure of tourist destinations in Gilgit-Baltistan. He informed that a high-level committee had been constituted by the region’s chief minister to maintain the beauty of Fairy Meadows.
“To promote ecotourism in the region, waste management and disposal are our first priority,” Ahmed said.
Asked about the issues raised during the jirga, he said that they ranged from plantation and protection of forests to provision of water and electricity to tourists.
Apart from that, the jirga also discussed the possibility of improving the road leading to Fairy Meadows.
A senior official of Gilgit-Baltistan’s environmental protection authority, Khadim Hussain, informed the jirga took place after a German mountaineer and photographer did a social media post wherein he raised concern about unplanned tourist activities in the region.
“There is no big issue of sanitation and solid waste management in the main area of Fairy Meadows,” he said. “However, there is usually a lot of waste on treks where people throw plastic bottles etc.”