Pakistan News

Wildlife dept opposes GDA’s request for control over hiking tracks

PESHAWAR: The wildlife department has opposed a request made by Galiyat Development Authority (GDA) to hand it over management and administration of three prominent hiking tracks in Ayubia National Part to it for promotion of tourism.

Official sources said that GDA recently requested the department to hand over legal possession of famous Miranjani hill track, Pipeline walking track and Mushkpuri hiking track to it.

Miranjani track is 4.69-km long, Pipeline walking track is 4-km and length of Mushkpuri hiking track is 4-km that belong to Ayubia National Park. Tourists from across the country track across these routes in the summer.

Sources said that the wildlife department’s stance was that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act, 2015 did not allow any activity in the national park without prior approval of the department concerned.

Dept says law doesn’t allow any activity in national park without prior approval

The authority through a letter to wildlife department had sought handing over management and administrative control of these tracks, which attracted millions of tourists every year.

The letter said that GDA planned to improve quality of tourist experiences and generate activities for them.

“In the absence of basic facilities and lack of waste management system along these tracks, it brings bad repute to the government while potential of the area is not being fully utilised,” said the authority.

Sources said that wildlife department had reservations over the proposal and informed the authority that its jurisdiction was limited only to forests in Galiyat whereas tracks belonged to Ayubia National Park.

“The existing law strictly prohibits trespassing or any other activities within the limits of the national park by any department except wildlife department,” said a source in the environment department.

He said that government would have to amend the wildlife Act to authorise GDA or any other entity to carry out activities within the boundaries of the national park. “Any activity inside Ayubia National Park without the permission of the wildlife department is illegal,” he added.

Another official said that GDA had been brought under the tourism department through an amendment in the Act. The provincial government under Section 19 of the KP Tourism Act, 2019 recently notified rules empowering the tourism department to establish development authorities to promote tourism in Kalam, Kumrat and Kalash.

Senior functionaries in the provincial environment department have reservations over the new Tourism Act, 2019 which they believe gives immense powers to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Culture and Tourism Authority, a subsidiary of tourism department to intervene in any area to set up tourism zones.

“The tourism department wants to promote mass tourism which will prove disastrous for these areas while our department is in favour of ecotourism,” said an official in the environment department.

He said that the tourism strategy board had been empowered to declare any area in the province as tourism integrated zone.

Section 20 of the tourism Act empowers the provincial tourism strategy board to declare any area in the province as integrated tourism zone through a notification in official gazette.

According to Section 20(2), after an area is declared as integrated tourism zome, at least seven legislations including Forest Ordinance 2002, River Protection Ordinance 2002, Wildlife and Biodiversity Protection Act 2015, Mines and Minerals Act 2017, and KP Environmental Protection 2014 will have no jurisdiction in the said area.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2020

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