MIRPUR (AJK)   -    A grand ‘Tourism Walk’ was held here at Kohala in Muzaffarabad district, the gateway to the Himalayan state of Jammu & Kashmir with the objective to promote tourism in the picturesque mountainous Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

The first of its kind ‘Tourism Walk’ was organised by Banking Club of AJK, state-run Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tourism, Archaeology and Culture Department, as a joint venture towards promotion of tourism industry in the state.

The walk also aimed to welcome the tourists pouring in AJK from across the country and abroad besides sensitizing them regarding tourism potential of AJK and it’s inter linkage with the environment.

Besides, AJK Tourism Department Director General Irshaad Peerzada, senior officials of EPA including Director Shafeeque Abbasi, Deputy Director Ali Saleem, Regional Manager HBL Muzaffarabad and Chief Manager State Bank of Pakistan, AJK Region Muhammad Saleem Abbasi and others led the walk.

Holding placards and banners inscribed with welcome slogans for the tourists travelling to AJK, the participants of the walk passed through the centuries-old Kohala-Muzaffarabad to mark the traditional hospitality of the people and the state of Jammu & Kashmir for the guests through this great symbolic gesture.

EPA’s team distributed Oxo- biodegradable plastic bags along with ‘Green tourism’ awareness brushers among the tourists at Kohala entry point and guide them to keep the tourist places ‘plastic & garbage free’, dump your trashes into bio-degradable plastic bags at suitable location , where can be easily collected by concerned municipalities.

Meanwhile, EPA Director General Raja Mummad Razaq, on the occasion, emphasized that it was an established fact that both the tourism and environment are interlinked and particularly in AJK, the huge natural tourism potential is just because of its pristine environment, plenty of other natural resources and beautiful landscapes.

Talking to this Correspondent, the AJK EPA chief said that being regulatory authority to ensure pollution-free environment in all spheres of life, his department (AJK EPA) was very much concerned about the prospects of negative impacts of unmanaged tourism activities on environment. EPA, he added, was tangibly pursuing to promote it on sustainable basis.

“For this purpose, the relationship of toEPA, Tourism

Dept, Banking Club jointly organised the event to sensitise visitors to tourism, environment linkageurism and healthy environment needs to be appreciated at all level and active role of all the stakeholders is very much imperative in this respect”, he emphasized.

To a question, Raja Razaq said that on the special directives of the AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan and the State’s Chief Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana, the EPA is determined to facilitate and coordinate with all stakeholders for the promotion of tourism besides revival of ancient sites depicting the centuries old cultural heritage of the state of Jammu & Kashmir located in Azad Jammu Kashmir - most particularly the ancient forts of Ramkot and Mangla in Mirpur district, Muzaffarabad Fort Baghsar fort in Bhimbher district besides the scenic lakes in top mountainous Neelam and Leepa vallies besides other identical resorts to attract both local and foreign tourists, he concluded.