GILGIT: German journalist and tour operator Michael Beek has warned that unplanned tourism activities on some of the world’s highest mountains in Gilgit Baltistan pose a serious threat of environmental degradation.
Mr Beek has been a frequent visitor to these mountains in the past four decades and also authored a guide book “Pakistan”. After his recent trek to Nanga Parbat (8,126m) base camp, he made a post on his Facebook account highlighting the environmental degradation caused by rapid development.
In the post, he wrote: “I have just returned from Nanga Parbat, the mountain that has dominated my life since 1981. A wonderful natural paradise, such as is rarely found on our planet. I know every side of the valley, every pass and many mountain farmers, without whose help the tourists could not manage a trek.”
Michael Beek miffed at ‘indifferent’ tourists; says tourism sans responsibility could ruin area
He continued, saying: “I have often walked around this mountain and been happy. But in the last five years, everything has changed. There are now 25 hotels on Fairy Meadows and there are so many people that the peace is over. Individuals incapable of walking are carried up on horses with their mobile phones in their hands, sometimes more than 600 in one day. Plastic waste is everywhere along the path, drinking bottles are simply thrown down into the Rakhiot River, nobody cares. It makes me sad. In the meantime, a road leading to Biji (Herrligkoffer camp) in Rupal Valley where the rich drive up in their heavy off-road vehicles to distribute their rubbish. Everything is full of plastic waste and the spring river in the base camp is filthy.
“The authorities don’t care about anything. No Rangers, no waste disposal, nothing. Everyone does what they want and nature is irrevocably destroyed. I am just appalled and angry about so much ignorance and stupidity.”
Talking to Dawn Mr Beek said that he has been coming to Pakistan for the past 40 years.
“I love the country and the people. I have a lot of friends all over the country. It’s my second home,” he added. “Tourists who visit the region should understand the sensitivity of the area,” he said, adding that they should visit on foot and not on their cars or motorbikes.
He warned that mass tourism and development in the region without responsibility and planning would result in a disaster. He observed that there should be a ban on the construction of hotels in national parks and on speed boating in lakes.
He also expressed concerns over the mass trekking activities on the K2 and its consequences for the nature. “The new expedition tourism we faced this year at K2, for example, is a disaster. Rich people in a big camp with parties in the evening and bonfires. From where do they bring wood,” he said while hinting at the environmental degradation caused by these activities.
He said the government should take responsibility and empower the forest department, public work department and environmental protection agency and help these departments to enforce the laws.
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022