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Karakoram National Park awaits global exposure

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ISLAMABAD, May 28 (INP) – Promotion of Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) at the global level will help increase the tourist footfall, promoting the cottage industry as a sound source of sustainable income and bringing socio-economic prosperity to the entire region, Rahat Karim Baig, Deputy Director Tourism Department of Baltistan, said this while talking to WealthPK.

“The park spans 10,00,000 hectares in five districts – Ghanche, Gilgit, Nagar, Shigar, and Skardu – of Gilgit Baltistan (GB) province of Pakistan. It was declared a national park in 1993. It is the largest national park in Pakistan and the highest one across the globe, with the largest glaciers across the polar region. The park is full of activities for tourists, mountaineers, trekkers, and hikers. It is home to 6,000 to 8,000-meter-high peaks. The world’s second highest peak K-2 is located in the park while Baltoro, Hisper, Chogo Lungma, and Biafo glaciers add value for the adventure lovers,” he said.

The park is home to 90 types of avifauna and a variety of quadrupeds. The iconic species are blue sheep, lynx, wolf and ibex, while the endangered ones are Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Markhor, Marco Polo sheep, and Urial. They were considered extinct due to overhunting before the area was declared a national park. But now the department concerned is keen to conserve, and the number of said animals is increasing.

“Besides diverse fauna, valuable flora is also unique. The park has immense tourist potential. However, it is necessary to educate the tourists about the upkeep of the area’s environment. The government must frame a law to ensure a check on over-tourism that may disturb the area’s environment.”

Principal Scientific Officer (PSO) and Program Leader of the National Medicinal, Aromatic, and Herbs Program at the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Dr Riffat Tahira said, “The park’s diverse flora is unique and has a huge industrial potential, but proper monitoring is necessary to harvest them. So, it is a good step to declare the place as a national park. It will help conserve multiple endangered species. For example, West Himalayan Spruce (locally called Partal) and Astragalus Gilgitensis (locally called Kael) are mostly used for timber and sometimes for medicinal purposes. Owing to over-harvesting, both are endangered species now.”

She said Himalayan White Pine was used to produce turpentine and medicines. Pashtun Juniper, Kashmir Balsam is highly effective in curing diseases. Broad-spectrum antibiotic and anti-inflammatory agents are extracted from Sea Wormwood, Thymus Linearis, and Taraxacum Karakorium. Taraxacum Affinis (locally called Kakronda) is a weed important to different ailments. Decoction of Rubus Irritans is highly effective in preventing scurvy. The essential oil extracted from Geranium is used for a variety of industrial and medicinal purposes. White clover is ideal for erosion control, soil improvement, and livestock grazing. Fragaria Nubicola is used for both food and medicinal purposes.

Dr Tahire said, “Different parts of all the said plants, trees, and weeds are used in fresh, dried, or powdered form to serve a variety of industrial purposes. Local communities can earn handsome profits by trading the value-added forms of these species at home and abroad. By popularizing this trend as a local cottage industry, a new source of value chain, business, job opportunities, and a sustainable livelihood can be developed.”

Talking to WealthPK, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a Hunza-based tour operating company, “Concordia Expeditions, Pakistan”, Sahib Noor said, “CKNP is a protected area and the largest park in Pakistan. When tourists visit, obviously some problems occur. Mostly, tourists visit here in vehicles and the carbon emissions harm the environment. Visitors, mountaineers, or trekkers usually leave plenty of waste that pollutes the area. So, a model of responsible tourism is necessary to build to educate them”.

He said, “When we talk about the conservation of wildlife in CKNP, it has played a great role in protecting the flora and fauna. Now, the near-to-extinct species are well-conserved and flourishing because no one is free to cut down or hurt a tree.”

He said it was necessary to paint a positive image of Pakistan, which will surely help increase the tourist footfall here

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