PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet has approved a bill proposing the formation of integrated tourism zones across the province, where several crucial laws for the protection of forests, environment, wildlife and rivers will lose effect.
While briefing reporters after the cabinet’s meeting, senior minister KP, Mohammad Atif Khan and spokesman for the government Ajmal Wazir said the cabinet had approved the proposed KP Tourism Act, 2019, which would be presented in the provincial assembly for consent.
Besides other things, the bill also proposed to dissolve the Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) and directorate of culture, and form the KP Tourism Authority in their place.
Under the law, employees of these bodies running into hundreds will either be placed at a surplus pool at the establishment department, absorbed in other departments or will be part of the new authority as decided by a scrutiny committee.
Section 20 of the proposed law empowers the Provincial Tourism Strategy Board to declare any area in the province as the ITZ through a notification in official gazette.
According to Section 20(2), after an area is declared as ITZ, at least seven legislations including Forest Ordinance 2002, River Protection Ordinance 2002, Wildlife and Biodiversity Protection Act, 2015, Mines and Minerals Act, 2017, and KP Environmental Protection, 2014, will have no jurisdiction in the said area.
Sections 20(3) and (4) declared that after the authority issues a notification declaring an area ITZ, the said area would cease to be reserved forest or national park.
However, Mr Atif said it was unlikely to cause any harm as even today, the cabinet had power to notify any area as forest or otherwise.
The minister said all constructions in the area would be carried out in areas without trees.
Mr Atif said the authority would ensure that no unplanned construction takes place in these zones and good sanitation conditions exist.He said after the formation of the tourism authority, investors would deal with a single entity.
The minister said the authority would comprise nine wings. The cabinet also decided to open 174 government rest houses across the province to the people.
Mr Atif said as the first step, five rest houses located in Nathiagali were immediately being opened to people.
He said the people would be able to make online booking for those rest houses, including the Chief Minister’s House, Governor’s House, Speaker’s House, Police’s Rest House, and Kanak House.
The minister said in the second phase, 49 more rest houses would be opened to people, while the people would get access to the rest totaling 120 afterward. He said millions of rupees were being spent annually on rest houses, which were off-limits to people.
The minister said the government was not interested in spending the taxpayers’ money on the upkeep of those places.He said the rest houses would generate revenue for the government.The minister said after those rest houses were opened to people, anyone could stay there after booking rooms.