GILGIT: Speakers at a seminar on Friday called for creating awareness among people about ecotourism in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

The seminar was held at the Karakoram International University (KIU) in connection with the World Tourism Day.

The event was organised by GB tourism department in collaboration with WWF Pakistan.

Tourism minister Fida Khan, KIU acting vice-chancellor Dr Khalil Ahmed, secretary tourism Fazal Khaliq, director GB environmental protection agency Shahzad Shigri, regional head WWF Haidar Raza, faculty members and a large number of students were in attendance.

The speakers said Gilgit-Baltistan comprising 72,496 square kilometre area, was bestowed with thousands of tourist attractions, including snow-covered peaks, high mountains, glaciers, lush green forests, alpine meadows, potential fragile high altitude lakes, fragile mountain ecosystem and associated biodiversity. The alluvial traces along these mountain ranges had healthy greenbelts that provided life form to the communities living in downstream catchments, they added.

The speakers said in the last decades the influx of domestic and international tourists had increased significantly, which boosted the local economy, but also affected the environmental, social and cultural aspects of Gilgit-Baltistan region.

They regretted that poor management of tourism-based activities such as lack of solid waste management had put tremendous pressure on pristine highland’s scenic beauty and affected both the humans and the wildlife.

The only way to tackle these challenges is sustainable conservation and wise utilisation of potential sites to ensure sustainable ecotourism development in the area, they stressed.

On the occasion, tourism minister Fida Khan said tourism was a key sector for generating employment, promoting education and creating skills, and ensuring overall economic development.

He stressed the need to raise awareness among the locals about the World Tourism Day to understand its theme and significance, to highlight environmental issues associated with tourism-based activities.

Fida Khan said GB government was taking steps to provide security to both the national and foreign tourists.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2019