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The unpleasant Murree incident

At least 22 people have frozen to death after heavy snow trapped them in their vehicles as tens of thousands of visitors thronged Pakistan’s hill town of Murree, officials say. Videos circulated on social media in which people are seen dead in stranded cars covered with the snow. In the past few days, more than 100,000 cars entered Murree, a hill station 24 miles away from Pakistan’s capital, to enjoy the snowfall.

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Murree is a mountain resort town, located in the Galyat region of the PirPanjal Range, within the Rawalpindi District of Punjab. It forms the outskirts of the Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area and is about 30 km northeast of Islamabad, at an altitude of 2,291 meters, and with a population of 25,816 approximately.

It is one of the most beautiful and scenic places near Islamabad. The roads and infrastructure has been developed quite well during the last couple of decades. Which enables tourists to reach conveniently.

Read more: Murree profiteers responsible: Netizens call for boycott

Residents of the area are heavily dependent on the tourism industry

Although the pace of development was satisfactory, could not meet the tremendous increase of tourists. The number of visitors is increasing year by year, especially in the winter season. It is the only place easily accessible for people from Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad, etc., to enjoy the snowfall. Every year, the snowfall attracts a huge number of tourists from far-flung areas of Pakistan and creates many unpleasant incidents. The public and government are well aware of this fact.

Police and district management try to control the rush and restrict the entry of vehicles. But the public usually argues with them and sometimes uses their contacts of influential people to enter the city. It is a small city with a traffic load of a few thousand vehicles in routine, but, during the seasons the number of vehicles increases to 10 times almost. Which creates vulnerability beyond control.

Unfortunately this year, the unpleasant incident of the loss of precious human lives has grieved everyone. Whatsoever was the reason, the loss of lives is regretted. We condole the families of the victims and pray for the forgiveness of the dead.  It is an unforgettable incident, where people went to enjoy nature, but, met unfortunate incident. The official causalities reported are 19, but, the tourist from the area says the situation is much worse and causalities might be more than the reported. The cause of the incident was reported heavy snowstorms and overcrowded rush.

Read more: FWO dozers help open up Murree Expressway

The government has taken notice and deployed rescue teams 

Pak-Army and various agencies are busy in the rescue operation and trying the save further loss of life. Blaming only the government may not solve the problem, but, it is equally the responsibility of the public to cooperate with the administration. It is not the first time, but similar incidents have been happening in the past, but with low intensity. The public is aware of such problems, but, ignores the previous experiences and yet repeatedly overcrowded the area. There is a dire need to educate the masses and convince them to cooperate with the administration.

While the government is also requested to take strict measures and keep the traffic under control. Restrict the vehicles from entering into the region strictly, without caring for any telephone call from any influential personalities. It will be much better to offend a few influential than repent after such incidents.

Spending money on rescue operations, it is much better to focus on the infrastructure development and management of the visitors. Based on available data from previous years, a comprehensive strategy may be formulated and strictly implemented to avoid any similar experience in the future.

Similarly, other scenic spots, like, Swat, Kalam, Kaghan, Naran, etc, must be managed appropriately. It was witnessed similar overcrowding situation in many other tourist places. Tourism is an important industry and contributes to the socio-economic development of the country. Especially, the far fling backward areas, which depend on the tourism industry only. It should be encouraged and promoted, but, within a manageable manner.

Read more: Celebrities ask people to stop sharing videos of Murree incident

The public needs more awareness and education, and Government needs more resources and management. Both, public and government with close cooperation may avoid any such unpleasant incident in the future.

 

Author:  Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at  awanzamir@yahoo.com. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy