Exploring Pakistan’s Marine Tourism Potential
The Government of Balochistan has announced that as per instructions to the Ministry of Maritime Affair, seven new sites in Gwadar have been earmarked for developing tourist resorts. Moreover, planning for the construction of motorways is also underway to accommodate the flow of tourist activity.
Pakistan is perhaps one of the most diverse countries when it comes to natural beauty. The country is known for its Himalaya Mountain Range, second highest peak K2, springs and rivers, plateaus, hills and valleys, plains, and a coast that overlooks the Arabian Sea. It is because of this diversity that Pakistan’s tourism industry has won two accolades; topping the lists of 10 under-the-radar tourist destinations for 2020 by Forbes, an international publication, and Conde Nast Traveller’s list for Best Holiday Destination for 2020.
Pakistan’s coastline of almost 1,000 kilometers that spans over two provinces; Sindh and Balochistan, presents pristine that can be harnessed for maximum tourism potential. Let’s explore how.
MARINE TOURISM IN PAKISTAN
There are numerous beaches in Pakistan to visit during summer. These beaches are located in and around Karachi, and so attract tourists on a regular basis. The most famous of these remains the French Beach in Karachi which is the most preferred destination for most citizens of Karachi.
However, on any given weekend, you’ll see beaches Gadani Beach, Kund Malir Beach, and Turtle Beach full of families and groups of people enjoying the sea breeze, the cool tidal waves, and the calmness that is typical of a beach.
But, as Pakistan is considered the 6th most vulnerable country to climate change, there are concerns about the health of its coasts, primarily to support and sustain marine tourism in Pakistan. For this very reason, while efforts are being made to revive marine tourism, development plans are being laid out to make it as self-sustainable as possible.
PLANS FOR REVIVING MARINE TOURISM IN PAKISTAN
Recently, Pakistan’s Ministry on Climate Change announced that by the year 2023, the government will increase its Marine Protected Area (MPA) by over 10 percent. According to details, Charna Island, Minai Hor, Gwadar Bay, and Indus Swatch will become protected areas as they need urgent attention.
These sites are essential for the survival of numerous marine species, including species of plants and animals. Hence they also support local communities who depend on the biodiversity of these sites for their survival. The Ministry on Climate Change has apprised that when these sites are declared MPAs, it will create opportunities for research that can be beneficial for future enactment of policies.
In addition to this, the government of Balochistan has launched seven projects to promote marine tourism in Balochistan. Under this, eco-tourism would be promoted, and model beach parks established at Gadani, Kund Malir, Ormara, Pasni, and Gwadar to provide maximum facilities to tourists. Plans are to incorporate cultural festivals as well in order to create more familiarity with Balochi culture as well.
The announcement of projects in Balochistan is a welcomed move because while Sindh’s coastline sees a regular influx of tourists, much of Balochistan remains uninhabited. In the past few years, the importance of reviving marine tourism in Pakistan has been highlighted on numerous platforms, while key stakeholders have also urged for affordable entertainment and recreational facilities along the coasts in order to boost tourism activity. For foreign tourists, plans have been proposed for developing five-star hotels as well.
Now as the China Economic Corridor (CPEC) enters its second phase and Gwadar is experiencing rapid development, Pakistani authorities are positive that this will help revive Pakistan’s coastline and the marine tourism industry. For this reason, there are talks of developing and harnessing the potential of the blue economy; which primarily deals with generating economic activity around acts that sustain and promote oceanic ecosystems.
PAKISTAN’S PUSH FOR A BLUE ECONOMY
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) describes the blue economy from two perspectives;
The first one deals with using seas and their resources for sustainable economic development.
The second one refers to creating economic activity in the maritime sector, without mentioning the need for such acts to be sustainable.
In Pakistan, the year 2020 was dedicated to kickstarting the country’s blue economy, however, this has been significantly delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. In December 2020, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam announced that the government of Pakistan was undertaking a three-month study of the country’s oceans in collaboration with the World Bank. Moreover, Pakistan is working to expand its fisheries industry, especially as trade with China takes center stage.
At COP 25 in Madrid during 2020, SAPM Aslam highlighted the essential role played by mangroves, especially in Pakistan. He added that mangroves create USD 1.6 billion worth of eco-services as they are breeding ground for various marine species, especially commercially-grown fishes, while also protecting low-lying areas from floods and erosion. He highlighted the importance of protecting mangroves, as a prerequisite for a country’s sustainable blue economy.
Mangroves in Pakistan are the seventh-largest in the world, covering an area of 667,000 hectares along Indus deltaic swamps in Sindh. As Pakistan hosted World Environment Day on June 5th, the government officials highlighted how the Sindh government is working to increase mangrove cover by 350,000 hectares under a public-private partnership with Indus Delta Capital Private Limited under the Delta Blue Carbon.
Pakistan is making all-out efforts to revive its marine tourism sector, under its sustainable blue economy plans. These initiatives are expected to boost adventure tourism as well.