Ex-minister Urges KP Govt To Review Handing Over Of Forest Rest Houses To Tourism Dept

Ex-minister urges KP govt to review handing over of forest rest houses to Tourism Dept

PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 25th Aug, 2019 ) :Former Minister for Environment and Forests Wajid Ali Khan Sunday urged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government to review its decision of handing over rest houses and inspection bungalows of the Forest Department to the Tourism Department as it would affect the performance of forest officers.

The rest houses and bungalows had been the property of Forest Department since colonial era, where the forest officers normally stayed after performing duties inside forests in remote and inaccessible areas, especially during harsh weather and at nights, he said while talking to APP. He said if handing over the rest houses to the Tourism Department was necessary then an alternate solution for the forest officers should have been provided.

It may be mentioned that as per the provincial cabinet's decision, the KP government on August 22 handed over the control of 169 rest houses along with their employees to the Tourism Department for renting out to the public. The rest houses transferred include 20 of the Irrigation Department, 56 Communication and Works, 21 Local Government and Rural Development, two Police and 70 of the Forest Department.

The former forests minister said the forest rest houses and bungalows were located in far flung and inaccessible areas with limited number of rooms, and using them for tourism purposes would likely to create residential problems for the forest officers.

Most of the forest rest houses were actually inspection huts, which were used for examination and preparation of forests working plans and wildlife studies from time to time, he added.

He said the buildings of some rest houses were very ancient and should be preserved under the KP Antiquities Act 2016.

Handing over the rest houses located in protected forests areas, especially in Hazara and Malakand divisions, to private and commercial entities in the name of public private partnership would have negative effects, he added.

He said the Tourism Department would have to hire extra staff for proper maintenance of the forest rest houses. A high-level committee should be formed to examine the overall conditions and facilities in the rest houses and availability of staff before their openingfor foreign and domestic tourists, he added.

He also called for taking all the stakeholders on board, including the Forest Department, prior to enactment of the KP Government Rest Houses Act 2019 and Draft Tourism Act 2019.

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