Entire Kashmir To Be Opened For Tourism
12 December 2005
Rawalkot: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz Monday said the entire Azad Kashmir would be opened for tourism to exploit area's full potential and help generate economic opportunities for its people. Speaking to a large gathering here during his visit to shelter houses, the prime minister said that there would be no restriction on any tourist to visit this scenic valley. 'This area has a vast potential for tourism and we will provide all facilities to attract tourists here,' he said and added that it will create more economic opportunities for the area and its people. Prime Minister Aziz visited an area near Dhamni village in Rawalakot, hit by the October 8 quake and was pleased to see people building their houses on self-help basis. AJK Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Ijazul Haq, Chairman Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, Lt General Zubair Khan and Federal Relief Commissioner Major Gen Farooq Ahmed Khan also accompanied the prime minister. Prime Minister Aziz said that the government had announced Rs 175,000 to help people construct their houses and the first instalment of Rs 25,000 had already been disbursed among many affectees. 'I am very delighted that people are working here on self- help basis,' he said. He also gave cash prizes to Muhammad Latif and Muhammad Ashraf who built their houses inside seven days with the financial assistance from the government. He lauded the entire nation for coming up to the challenge posed by the October 8 quake and said the government used all its resources to provide immediate help to the quake-hit people. He said the government would guide and give financial support to the people build quake-resistant houses. Referring to the November 19 Donors' Conference, he said the international community pledged over 6 billion dollars in grants and loans to help the government in its reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. 'This shows the confidence of the international community in Pakistan and its leadership and respect it enjoys in the comity of nations,' he said while adding, the world's response to the tragedy was a success of the country's foreign policy. Prime Minister Aziz assured complete transparency in the use of funds, saying each and every penny would be accounted for. Prime Minister Aziz said the hospital in Rawalakot that was destroyed by the quake was being reconstructed. He was pleased to note that brotherly Islamic country of Jordan was setting up a 180-bed hospital in the district. Similarly, the government would re-construct all schools and colleges to ensure that education for the children of the quake stricken areas was not disturbed by the quake, he added. Prime Minister Aziz, who was visiting Rawalakot for the third time since the calamity struck, assured the local residents that the government was fully alive to their problems and the requirements of the area in the wake of the devastated earthquake. 'We are working day and night to help you and reconstruction and rehabilitation work will start in few months,' he added. He particularly paid his gratitude to the Muslim Ummah for helping Pakistan in these testing times. The prime minister lauded the workers of National Volunteer Movement who were also present in Rawalakot area and helping the people. 'We want to channelise the spirit of volunteers who have joined this movement from Karachi to Khyber to provide maximum help to the people,' he added. He also paid tributes to the foreign aid workers who volunteered themselves to work in the difficult Himalayan terrain to help the people ravaged by the quake in Azad Kashmir and NWFP. Referring to the opening of five crossing points on the Line of Control, Prime Minister Aziz said that President General Pervez Musharraf had made the proposal and was accepted by India to facilitate people on either side of the LoC to help each other in reconstruction efforts. Prime Minister Aziz said these points could also be used for trade that would help people of the area to have more job opportunities. On the occasion, the prime minister reiterated that Pakistan desired peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in line with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. He said any solution that was acceptable to the people of Kashmir would also be acceptable to Pakistan. Earlier, on his arrival, the prime minister was received by AJK President Sardar Ibrahim Khan and other cabinet members. On his way back, the prime minister flew over Hattian Bala where a lake has been formed by the landsliding. The Prime Minister Aziz has already formed a task force to look into the problem and suggest measures to deal with it. He instructed the Chairman ERRA that the report of the task force be submitted as soon as possible so that action could be taken expeditiously before the onset of winter rains. Dilshad Azeem from Islamabad adds: The federal government Monday resolved that at least 35 million acre feet (maf) water, that enters the sea unused every year, can be utilized for building mega water dams such as Kalabagh, Bhasha or Katzara. 'Presently 35 maf water can be used which entered into the sea,' Dr Ishfaq, Advisor to Prime Minister, told a high-level meeting on 'Climate Change' chaired by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz here. The prime minister stated that changes in climate due to global warming need proactive policies to assure adequate availability of water for agriculture and other needs. 'Pakistan needs to build storage to optimize use of water resources.' Dr Ishfaq said storage will in no way affect downstream Kotri as the water will be released as and when required to meet downstream needs for ecological and agricultural usage. The report has been prepared by the Global Change Impact Studies Center (GCISC). The meeting was attended by Minister for Science and Technology, Minister of State for Environment, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister and senior officers. Dr Ishfaq said as the result of melting of glaciers due to global warming, the quantity of wasted water will significantly increase and, therefore, in order to ensure water and food security in the wake of climate change, this water needs to be regulated by building large water reservoirs. He said the global warming due to climate change will lead to increased evaporation from oceans, precipitation over the mountain regions will have higher contents of rain and less snow and mostly appear as extreme event, resulting in increased fluctuation in the availability of water in the Indus river system. The melting of glaciers will result in increased flow of water, which, if not stored, will go waste. This phenomenon has added an element of urgency in the building of dam and quick action needs to be taken. Pakistan's water storage capacity, he said, is 14 maf, which is nine per cent of its total water flow, and it is of the lowest in the region. The country has a total water storage capacity of 18 maf, of which 4 maf has been lost due to silting at Mangla and Tarbela reservoirs. Minister of State for Environment Amin Aslam in his presentation on the same topic, said in Pakistan net water storage capacity is decreasing due to sedimentation. He said the climate change resulting in global warming is worsening the situation. There is an increase in glacial melting and increase in river outflow into the sea. The government needs to take decisions on water storage so that water security is assured for the future, he added.