Govt apathy dampens ‘Neela Wahn’ charms

Published June 24, 2024
Neela Wahn lake seen from the top of the hills
in Kallar Kahar.
Neela Wahn lake seen from the top of the hills in Kallar Kahar.

Neela Wahn, a scenic spot nestled in the foothills of the Salt Range in Kallar Kahar, draws many tourists to its azure waterfalls and lake, but a lack of relevant facilities for tourists by the relevant department makes the journey to this beautiful site an arduous task.

Situated 20km from the Kallar Kahar Lake and 155km from Islamabad, these lakes lie deep in the impassable valley surrounded by dry rocky hills. One has to trek through a zigzag narrow passage littered with jagged pebbles and wobbling stones, which tests one’s balancing skills. The name ‘Neela Whan’ (Blue flowing water) comes from the azure colour of the crystal clear waterfall, which plunges dramatically from a tall hill.

People have to travel on a dilapidated passage on the rocky hills to reach the lake.
People have to travel on a dilapidated passage on the rocky hills to reach the lake.

Though a popular spot in summer for tourists, the site has not garnered much attention from the Punjab Tourism Development Corporation, which is evident by a lone signboard installed on the Kallar Kahar-Khushab road. Besides this signpost, nothing has been done to promote this spot or facilitate those who come here.

A local, Ameer Kazim, said the 1.5km passage to the waterfall was dangerous due to frequent landslides, particularly during the rainy season. He claimed that he with the help of the youth carved out this passage in the early 2000s and has been volunteering to maintain the pathway since then.

A crystal clear waterfall flows from a hill.
A crystal clear waterfall flows from a hill.

Another tourist, Mohammad Ramzan, who was visiting from Gujar Khan, said the tall claims of the tourism department fell flat when one visited this remote site, which did not have any facilities but still attracted tourists.

The department had claimed that it would provide access to tourist sites through roads and safe pathways but nothing had been done here in this regard, he said, adding that in the recent past, some authorities in this area promised to improve Neela Whan lakes by providing facilities but that failed to materialise.

Another view of the Neela Wahn lake.
Another view of the Neela Wahn lake.

A visitor from Rawalpindi, Mohammad Zunair, said there was no parking lot here which made their vehicles susceptible to minor thefts, such as stealing petrol from motorbikes.

“As visitors are asked to park at their own risk while climbing down the trek, sometimes they come back to discover their bikes’ tanks are empty,” he said, pointing out the risks tourists face during visits to the idyllic site.

Another tourist complained there was no proper “shelter” at the spot but only a tiny kiosk where a vendor rented out life jackets for Rs300 each. There is not even a tuck shop in the area, another interjected.

Faseehul Hassan, a young adventurer and a special person, suggested that water slides could be installed as well as an elevator to facilitate senior citizens and children, who could make use of this instead of climbing up the uneven pathway. This would make this site inclusive and attractive to a large number of people, he said, adding that the step could also boost the revenue of the tourism department.

Some visitors sit by the bank of the lake while others are seen swimming. — Photos by the writer
Some visitors sit by the bank of the lake while others are seen swimming. — Photos by the writer

Speaking toDawn, Punjab Tourism Development Corporation manager Naveed acknowledged the immense potential this tourist site holds. He, however, admitted that the tourism department could not improve access due to the apathy of the government which failed to allocate funds despite several feasibility reports.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2024

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