KAGHAN: Saiful Malook, a lake famous for fantasies and fairy tales in Upper Mansehra district looked deserted during Eid holidays owing to effective travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The crystal clear greenish-blue water of the world famous Saiful Malook lake spread on 1.06 square miles having 113 feet depth and 3,224 meters height from sea level, which attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists, mountaineers and nature lovers during Eid days in the past, were almost empty this year due to travel restrictions imposed by the district administration to contain coronavirus.
Even its snow-clad mountains of Malika Perbat on East at Kaghan Valley, which take the visitors into a lap of peace and serenity in normal days, was looking deserted.
Named after Persian Prince, Saiful Malook, the lake is a main centre of attraction for foreign and domestic tourists during summer season due to its pleasant weather and waterfalls emanating from nearby glaciers of Malika Parbat.
Noted Sufi poet, Mian Muhammad Bakhsh in his famous book “Fairytale of Saiful Malook” has narrated about Prince Saiful Malook and fairy princes Badriul Jamala during Malook’s visit to the lake.
However, a handful of local residents were seen enjoying its mesmerizing natural beauty, greenish blue water, waterfall and pleasant atmosphere during Eid days.
Ali Abbasi, a local traveller told APP that the famous lake had attracted influx of foreign and domestic tourists during Eid days in the past but not this time due to travel restrictions.
He said the local travel and hotels industry in Naran and Kaghan, which was largely dependent on tourism, was adversely affected by coronavirus on Eid.
He said hotels, inns and restaurants enroute to awesome lakes of Ansoo, Lalusar in Kaghan, Dudipastar and Saiful Malook in Mansehra had been affected by coronavirus pandemic.
“I visited many lakes in several countries but the gripping beauty and clean greenish-blue water of Saiful Malook has impressed me the most,” Ali Khan, a local resident of Kaghan told APP.
“Saiful Malook and Ansoo lakes are my favourite tourists’ places as their natural beauty always fascinates me to spend a few weeks in these spectacular scenic areas of Pakistan with my family especially during Eid days,” he said.
He said coronavirus has affected business of boats persons, who were charging Rs1,000 ticket from a tourist to explore the entire lake besides people associated with horse-riding, which takes tourists to a new height of fun and joy.
He suggested construction of chairlift between Naran and Saiful Malook could generate millions of rupees revenue for provincial kitty besides improving socio-economic conditions of people of the area.
He said it was disgusting to see scattered plastic bags and water bottles in vicinity of the lake. The littering garbage and other wastes in places like these were adversely affecting its natural beauty and put aquatic life in danger due to plastic pollution.
The number of litter bins needed to be increased besides an enhanced number of sanitary workers for quick disposal of solid plastic waste and facilities at cars parking areas requires marked improvement.
Syed Taimoor Ali Shah, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Wildlife Manshera told APP that Saiful Malook and Lulusar national parks were established in 2003 to protect ecology, alpine ecosystem, conserve forests and wildlife habitats besides providing improved facilities to thousands of tourists visiting these lakes every year.
He said Saiful Malook Lake has been included in Saiful Malook National Park (SMNP) to ensure its sustainable protection and conservation.
Spreading on 12,026 acres, Saiful Malook national park has facilities of over 49 dusts bins placed in different areas for disposal of waste, he said, adding international standard horse helmets were procured and would be freely distributed among horse-riders for safety of tourists besides a pedestrian bridge over SMNP constructed to facilitate women, senior citizens and children tourists.
A new site measuring 30 kanals has been selected for development of new service and parking areas to accommodate 500 vehicles at one time besides construction of tracks at SMNP. Similar tracks were also constructed at Lulusar lake’s park besides facilities of entry gate, park complex and tourists information centre.
Latifur Rehman, Spokesperson, Tourism, Sports and Archaeology Department told APP that travels restrictions during Eid holidays were imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.
Every year, around five lakh to one million tourists normally visit Hazara division including Naran, Kaghan, Nathiagali, Thandiani, Saiful Malook and Ansoo lakes due to improved roads infrastructure and tourism related facilities including camping pods established by PTI Government to facilitate tourists.
He said around 2.681 million tourists had visited Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during August 13, 2020 to September 30, 2020 after significant reduction of coronavirus.
He said Tourism Department KP was working on an inclusive plan to develop picnic spots in the vicinity of five small dams including Chatri dam Haripur, Tanda dam Kohat, Kundal dam Swabi, Jalozai dam Nowshera and Jhangra dam Abbottabad to promote tourism in the province.
Construction work on access roads to tourists’ sites is expedited and work orders for construction of access roads in prime tourists’ areas in Hazara and Malakand divisions issued.