DADU, Dec 19: Earlier this week, the Gorakh hill station, popularly called the Murree of Sindh, received the season’s first snowfall with a smattering of rain. But the scenic hill station remains inaccessible because of extensive damage to roads caused by landsliding during the monsoon this year.
The Gorakh hill station is 5,866 feet above sea level and is part of the Khirthar mountain range which forms a natural border between Sindh and Balochistan.
It is situated in the Johi taluka of Dadu district, around 450 kilometres from Karachi, and comprises a plateau covering an area of 2,400 acres of which 1,340 acres are in Sindh while 1,060 acres are in Balochistan. With pleasant weather and a beautiful landscape, it is the only place in Sindh where it snows in winter.
In 2010, the floods caused extensive damage to the roads and bridges leading to the area from Wahi Pandhi. The damage was repeated next year by flash floods from the Khirthar range, while this year, besides damage to the hill station itself, roads near Khawal Luk were damaged because of extensive landsliding during the monsoon.
The floods also affected greenery in the area since a lot of trees were destroyed. An official of Dadu’s forest department, Bashir Ahmed, said that his department had sown different kinds of trees on the top of the Gorakh hill but all of them had been swept away by the floods.
The PC-1 for the construction of roads and bridges, worth Rs999 million, was completed a year ago but has yet to be approved by the planning and development department. Meanwhile in November, President Asif Ali Zardari directed the provincial tourism minister to complete the ongoing development schemes at the Gorakh hill station and also announced his decision to pay a visit to the area this month.
Sain Bux Brohi, who lives at the peak of Gorakh hill, accused the government and politicians of embezzling development funds.
“Government officials and politicians mismanage a lot of funds on the pretext of development projects at the Gorakh hill station,” he said while grazing his goats. “The area will develop automatically only if the government provides security and maintains law and order.”
According to another resident of the area, Kalimullah Kaloi, who lives near the natural water spring on Gorakh hill, bridges and water supply lines were damaged repeatedly every year during monsoon from 2010 until 2012 and hadn’t been restored.
He said that recently, the Sindh chief minister included a landlord from the Kachho area into the board of Gorakh Hills Development Authority (GHDA) on the recommendation of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership in Dadu. The landlord, according to Mr Kaloi, had conspired to occupy the land of the hill station with fake documents. He appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the chief of National Accountability Bureau to probe the issue.
Talking to Dawn, the director general of GHDA, Nazeer Ahmed Chakrani, said that the plan for the rehabilitation of roads and bridges, leading to the Gorakh hill station from Wahi Pandhi town, had been sent to the planning and development department for approval a month ago but was not approved because of technical problems. But as soon as the PC-1 was approved, he said, rehabilitation work on roads would start near Khawal Luk where most of the damage occurred.
He said that a meeting, to discuss the PC-1, had been fixed for Dec 12 but was cancelled by the planning and development officials and moved to Dec 24.
Meanwhile, Mr Chakrani said that work was under way to restore water and electricity supply lines in the area. Besides, he said, tuck shops, staff quarters and tourists’ huts were also being built.
Mr Chakrani confirmed the appointment of the Kachho landlord in the board of GHDA and said that he had been appointed as the board’s adviser on development, and to look after land utilisation, colony and law affairs.
However, a source in the GHDA told Dawn that the landlord had been appointed to ensure votes for the PPP in the next general elections.
The PPP president for Dadu district and also a member of the National Assembly, Rafique Ahmed Jamali, told Dawn that all the development projects at the Gorakh hill station would be completed in the tenure of the PPP government.
He said that he would approach the chief minister and President Asif Ali Zardari to direct the officials concerned for releasing funds for the ongoing development projects.
The former federal minister and a leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Liaquat Ali Jatoi, told Dawn that he had made efforts for the provision of electricity and water supply to the area but the area had been totally neglected by the PPP government. According to him, Gorakh hill was more beautiful than other tourist sites of the country. If the visitors are provided enough facilities, said Mr Jatoi, the hill station would automatically generate revenue for the government.