GILGIT: The federal government has been asked to involve experts for formulating a tourism policy to develop the tourism sector in Gilgit-Baltistanon modern lines.

The centre should also fix the problem of prolonged electricity loadshedding in the region by exploiting its immense hydropower potential.

These were the major demands of speakers at a webinar titled ‘Tourism in Pakistan – Challenges and the Way Forward’ held here on Tuesday.

Speaking to the participants of the online session, Neknam Karim, general secretary of the Tour Operations Association of GB, pointed out that Hunza was getting only two megawatts of electricity against its demand of 26 megawatts.

He said there was no loadshedding in Chitral because of construction of several micro hydel projects there, but GB suffered prolonged electricity outages because of untapped hydel power potential.

He urged the government to involve tourism experts for formulating a tourism policy.

Journalist Jamil Nagri said the region often got just between two to four hours of electricity during the day, which became even more severe in harsh winter. He also said there were serious connectivity and internet-related issues in the region which needed to be fixed.

Mr Nagri also cited the lack of air and road connectivity with the rest of the country as reasons for non-development of the tourism sector. “The Karakoram Highway is the lifeline of GB and whenever it gets blocked thousands of people are stranded, including foreign tourists.”

He said the government should consider allowing direct international flights to Skardu and Gilgit to boost flow of foreign tourists to the region.

Mr Nagri suggested that the government encourage public-private partnership to fix the system.

Ammar Habib Khan, a noted economist, said if the government could not provide services like power on its own to consumers then it should let the private sector do that.

Sirajul Mulk, owner of Chitral’s famed Hindukush Heights Hotel, said he had set up his own hydropower generation plant to provide electricity to his hotel.

“The electricity supply system is smooth in Chitral, where everyone pays bills even though the rate is same as in other cities.”

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021

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