The incident in Murree has shaken the country. According to published reports, 22 people died after attempting to enjoy the hill station precincts with friends and family on the wintry roads. Multiple authorities began relief and rescue efforts too late to avert an unnecessary loss of life. Inquiries have been ordered to determine the causes of this tragic event. To learn from this incident and avoid making the same mistakes in the future, an impartial and dispassionate review is required.
The environment in Murree and the surrounding region is vulnerable, which is aggravated by the extreme weather cycles that accompany climate change. For domestic tourists, its altitude, forestation, colder weather, picturesque locations, and somewhat improved accessibility endow it with unique appeal. Snowfall is a sought-after experience during the winter months, attracting many visitors to the hill station.
This mobility, however, can be a concern in a place with limited entry and departure choices. More than 100,000 cars were reportedly seen driving to Murree, which has significantly less parking capacity. Maintaining the operation of snow-covered roadways necessitates the careful use of specific SOPs created for this purpose. It appears that SOPs for dealing with such a circumstance existed but were not followed. In light of current developments and the changing situation, these may be altered and updated.
To efficiently manage available parking and avoid traffic congestion, private cars must be absolutely prohibited from entering Murree. To run durable trucks and coasters well equipped to survive extreme weather and situations such as snowstorms, an incentive-based intervention must be established. More people will be able to visit and enjoy themselves without fear of becoming trapped.
Visitors will be more comfortable and safer if simple planning strategies are used. To respond to any unfortunate incident, emergency response centres must be put up within a short distance. To guarantee a smooth traffic flow, tourism authorities may design a patrolling mechanism in collaboration with other interested public organisations. For potential visitors, a tourism advice and information app must be established. During peak season, the respective departments must implement a mandatory tourist registration system so that the administration may obtain accurate information on visitors, their expected stay length, and other pertinent information.
For several causes, such a tragedy can occur anywhere. Government agencies can identify all of these areas that receive a large number of tourists. Tourist resorts in various settings, religious shrines and places of worship, temporary and permanent marketplaces, transit corridors, and educational institutions are some of the categories.
Regrettably, our history is littered with avoidable catastrophes and mishaps caused by officials’ lack of foresight and callousness. Many visitors were looted and left stranded by armed robbers on their route to Swat not long ago. Traffic delays, accidents, and other annoyances are typical along the routes leading to northern locations. Terrorist assaults have attacked a number of temples.
Local government officials are well aware of the large number of devotees that attend temples during Urs remembrance activities. Visitors and other stakeholders can be assured of convenience and safety by employing basic planning strategies. The visiting demographic, modes of transportation, evaluation of lodging facilities, activity timelines, concentration spots, and other factors must all be considered for maximum convenience and safety for all. In addition, potential threats and disruption factors must be recognised and neutralised. Collaboration with the shrine’s administration is critical.
The idea of carrying capacity must be used to manage areas with higher-than-average footfall. This is a fundamental idea that tells us about the resources required to support a critical mass of humans, wildlife, flora, and fauna in a finite space. It’s also used to figure out how much damage over-subscription and uncontrolled destruction to environmental assets can do to vulnerable ecologies and places. For example, when projected freight traffic passes through the Gilgit-Baltistan region’s highways under CPEC agreements, the region’s ecology will suffer.
In the same way, the changing lifestyles of our urban middle classes will put strain on available resorts and popular tourist locations. Provincial governments must plan and organise these efforts in a methodical manner if they are to avoid catastrophes like the one at Murree. Visitors must be strictly managed, private vehicles must be restricted, hotels and guesthouses must be regulated, timely responses to weather advisories must be made, a reliable communication system must be developed, emergency response must be improved, and tourist education programmes must be implemented.