PESHAWAR: More than four years after its destruction by the Taliban militants, the Malam Jabba Ski Resort continues to be in ruins due to official apathy.
The United States Agency for International Development-Pakistan, according to officials, conducted an exercise in 2009-10 to help rebuild the resort but the move could not take off until now due to a dispute between the federal and provincial authorities over its ownership.
“Foreign donors do not finance development projects that involve issues,” said an official privy to the matter.
Though the US Agency, said the official, had determined procurement requirements to rebuild the resort more than two years ago and had also shown interest in financing a part of the rebuilding project at that time, now the government, added the official, did not have any takers to agree to finance the development works.
The federal and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments, according to the official, have not been able to resolve the long-pending issue of the resort’s ownership.
Even the enactment of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in April 2010, said the official, had not helped much. As per the amendment, tourism stands devolved to the provinces.
“In light of the 18th amendment, the issue of the resort’s ownership should stand resolved, but that has not happened as the federal authorities concerned are not ready to budge,” said the official.
Spread over 275 acres, 7 acres of the resort – occupied by the base – are owned by the federal government, whereas the remaining area is owned by the provincial government.
The federal government has a claim to the entire property on the pretext that the land was given to it years ago when the Swat State was merged with Pakistan.
Operated by Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation before the resort was set on fire by the Swat Taliban, it was owned by the Malam Jabba Resort Limited, a public limited corporation with 99 per cent of its shares owned by the federal government.
“The provincial tourism minister has said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government would shortly pursue the project,” said the official.
However, it is not likely to happen as the sitting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is all set to leave by March 16 this year, leaving the project to remain in the cold storage until the next government brings it out for execution.
The ‘Malam Jabba Lift design-build project on site condition assessment and procurement requirement,’ a report prepared by USAID-Pakistan in May 2010, mentions the ownership dispute between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the federal government as an issue that ought to be resolved before the commencement of the rebuilding effort.
The resort requires a massive rebuilding effort as according to the report ‘a significant construction effort will be needed to clear the site and make it safe to be anywhere near ready to be rebuilt.’
Involving the bottom elevation of 2,473 meters and the top base station at 2,682 meters, the ski resort involved a chairlift and a lodge with 52 guestrooms before the facility was set on fire by the Swat Taliban in June 2008.
“No scraps from the lift were found on the site,” contained the report, adding “the main lodge had been violently destroyed and the surrounding service buildings had also been destroyed, apparently by fire.”
It further mentions that the resort’s water, sewer, and electrical services had all been at least partially destroyed.
The consultants, according to the report, termed the project unfeasible unless the government provided it with a subsidy to run its operations.
“It is recommended that any international donor should be extremely cautious about funding a single element of the resort…such as the aerial lift does not guarantee the construction of other elements required for a fully operational resort,” contains the consultant’s report.
It opposed the reconstruction of the lift only as the consultants said it would not enable Malam Jabba to function as a tourist destination.
The consultants based their analysis on the number of tourists the resort received every season which they found insufficient to sustain the rebuilding of the resort independent of the government’s financial support.