* Gorakh Hill Station: The one place Karachiites can escape to in the summers has been ignored despite its fantastic tourism potential
By Razzak Abro
JOHI (District Dadu):
As Karachi sweltered in the summer’s heat, it was a cool night at Gorakh Hill in district Dadu, which is otherwise known for its cooking 40-degree plus temperatures. It was the weekend and a group of people, including journalists, had gathered at the hill station for a festival organised by ActionAid and local NGO Village Shadabad Welfare Organisation. Those who knew about Gorakh had brought warm clothes, especially the people from the surrounding areas, who even brought blankets for the night’s stay at the proposed summer resort located at the Khirthar mountains at a height of 5,866 feet. But some of the guests from Karachi, Hyderabad and other parts of the province were caught by surprise. “I did not expect such cold weather here during the hot summer,” exclaimed Asghar Azad, a journalist from Karachi. He was one of the 100-strong group a majority of which were visiting the site for the first time. Over two hundred local people turned up as well. The hosts had arranged 4-wheel jeeps to the hilltop but the old ones spluttered out and it was only the locals who managed to complete the trek on motorcycle. An elderly gentleman in his 60s made it before us city folks. According to guests Muhammad Nawaz and Nabi Bux they had to drag the bikes up at some points, much to their misery. PPI reported that basically the problem is that the work on developing Gorakh hill station, the first ever such project to promote tourism in Sindh, is being done at a snail’s pace. Work on the approach road is exceptionally show and of very poor quality, as hardly 15 km of a narrow strip, with sharp and steep turnings, has so far been built contrary to the claims of the previous government that 53km of road had been completed. Village Shadabad NGO members Akbar Lashari and Zulfiqar Birhamani told Daily Times that this was the first ever large gathering of people at the hill. They were of the opinion that the local people had struggled to arrive there because of their interest in the site, which could be Sindh’s answer to Murree. “The dry hilly spot is dotted with wild olives, scrubs and acacia bushes and presents a Quetta-like profile. Because of its hilltop location Gorakh is cooler then the Quetta valley and gets really chilly in winter,” writes Brigadier Yasub Ali Dogar in the recently launched Shadabad magazine’s special Gorakh edition. The festival was mainly held, reported PPI, to point out the slackness of the authorities who should be highlighting the importance of Gorakh, one of the 50 peaks selected by British rulers in subcontinent for a hill station. It has the lowest minimum temperature of 5.0 degrees centigrade at night and 15 degrees centigrade in the day during the summer. The participants of the festival criticized the previous government for making false claims that it had built a road and provided other facilities for tourists by spending billions of rupees through the Gorakh Hill Development Authority (GHDA). PPI reported that WAPDA has completed its work of erecting poles, installing cables from the foothills to the top where a transformer could also be seen but it needs to be activated. Moreover, the GHDA has laid a water supply line and the boosting stations are under-construction in addition to a single-room police check post at Khawal pass, 15km below Gorakh peak. A two-room rest house, built during late Abdullah Shah’s government, was in a dilapidated condition, and the only addition made by previous coalition government was a two-room rest house made from fiber at another peak. According to the revised PC-I, approved on February 24, 2003, the cost of Gorakh Hill Station project was Rs 198.269 million including the construction of roads, bridges and a water supply scheme. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved the project and the Sindh Government had started the work on the 53km road strip from Wahi Pandhi, a small town at the foothills to Gorakh peak. Later, the federal government agreed to share 30 percent of the cost of the entire project. The strip would have 10 viewpoints and would have a 10-bed emergency hospital, waterfalls, a filter plant, security posts, horse and camel riding tracks, cable cars and chair lifts. The then prime minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali had also visited Wahi Pandhi road and had directed the Sindh government to initiate an inquiry into the matter, which still was pending. The topography of Gorakh peak is 1,340 acres in Sindh and 1,000 acres in Balochistan. The weather in summer is very pleasant, with moderate temperatures during the day, dropping to slightly chilly at night. In winter, however, the temperature goes down to almost -8 to -12 degrees centigrade. Being the highest peak in a region, the hill offers a beautiful view of a valley from the top. The area is surrounded by arid mountains with small green pastures at certain points. During the rainy season, one can see various streams of water flowing throughout the area. Due to bad road conditions, the 53km distance takes about 5 hours. The track is not dangerous but since it has a few sharp turns at some places, visitors get trapped at certain turns where work has not been carried. The mountain had been blasted with dynamite and there were a number of stones on the road, which make it impossible for the tires to grip firmly.
Thursday, May 29, 2008