Deadly Tourism Season in Pakistan’s Northern Areas 2023


Pakistan has been a popular tourism destination since 2018 before the growing tourism industry came to a halt due to the pandemic. After 2021, the industry picked its pace back due to more locals and foreigners wanting to travel after the pandemic lockdowns worldwide.

However, with the rising instances of extreme weather events and changes in the habitats, rainfall patterns as well as the general landscape owing to the effects caused by changing climate; the northern areas of Pakistan in particular are facing more dangers and severely aggravated effects of climate change.

Deaths/Casualties During the Deadly 2023 Tourism Season:

Northern Areas of Pakistan is home to the largest number of glaciers outside the Arctic and the Polar region, also known as the 3rd pole of the world due to the high number of glaciers found along the Himalayan and Karakorum range of mountains. Owing to the increasing temperatures that subsequently also cause the ocean temperatures to rise result in faster melting of polar ice, shifting weather patterns and many more changes to the our landscape that have left these Northern areas in a far more vulnerable state than they were.

Following is a list of unfortunate incidents that have taken place during the 2023 Tours to the Northern Areas so far due to the various reasons:

  1. KPK District and Karakorum Highway Landslides:

    On April 18th, 2023, large landslides took place along with floods from the sudden and high amount of rainfall experienced in the regions across major routes going to and from the northern areas. The high rainfall is responsible for causing massive landslides and floods that have even resulted in many casualties.
    A major landslide occurred in KPK district across the Khyber Pass close to the Afghanistan border on the main route between Peshawar and the Torkham border crossing.

    DEATHS: Around 20 trucks were reportedly buried in the landslide. Authorized reports have also confirmed at least 2 people are dead and at least 12 others have been injured. Dozens of others were trapped in the landslide as well.

    Rescue operations and road clearing efforts took a huge time as the landslides and the resultant damage as well as collateral damage were massive.

    Karakoram Highways also experienced a massive landslide to and from Kohistan across the major route connecting Islamabad and Gilgit Baltistan. Several other districts in Kohistan and nearby districts in Gilgit Baltistan have also been blocked by huge rocks and avalanches due to landslides. The landslides occurred due to heavy thunderstorms that resulted in floods and landslides that happened till 20th April 2023.

    DAMAGE: Flooding in habitable areas where mountain side communities and the resulting debris from damaged bridges, railways and roads also caused routes to be blocked and made it difficult for locals to travel. In this scenario the tourists that had been stuck were also badly impacted as many got lost due to the unfamiliar terrain and emergency conditions. Many tourists were left stranded even after being able to move to a safer spot because of flight cancellations and airport delays.

    In addition to KPK, various other regions in the country also suffered from Landslides, on 27th July 2023, heavy rainfall occurred in the districts of Mansehra, Abbottabad and Mardan triggered landslides in the region leaving at least 6 people dead and 4 injured.

  2. Yarkhoon Floods 2023:

    The severe floods due to the monsoon rains as well as GLOFs in the various Upper and Lower districts of Chitral caused significant damage to locals from the end of July to the early weeks of August. Even though tourists were told to avoid going there at this time of the year many still did. However, thankfully no casualties were reported as many made it to safe spaces before the GLOFs could hit the main regions. The communication between the regions and even to Chitral from rest of the Country was completely cut off due to the severity of the floods. The rains are predicted by the PMD to last until mid August and the authorities are advising people to still be on the alert for more flash floods or landslides that could result and take protective measures.

    For more information check out: Severe Devastating Monsoon Floods in Yarkhoon Valley Chitral
  3. Avalanches:

    Near the Shounter Pass that connects Gilgit Baltistan to the Pakistan Administered Kashmir, in Northern Pakistan, a nomadic tribe had been hit by an avalanche in which at least 11 people were killed. Reports say that at least 4 of them were women and some children were also among the casualties. At least 13 people were also injured due to the snow avalanche and at least 15 cattle were also dead. The nomadic tribe constituted of 35 members according to reports.
  4. Heavy Monsoon Rains 2023:

    The heavy monsoon rains have at least killed more than 300 people in KPK alone while 1700 people across Pakistan have also died due to these rains. Overall the deadly rains have effected over 33 million people and losses suffered by the country are approximately $30 Billion. Thousands of roads, railways and infrastructure has also been severely effected that has really hit the local population as well as the tourism industry.

SUMMARY: Gilgit Baltistan and the Northern Area of Pakistan are also known as the land of glaciers. Rising temperatures are rapidly melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountain ranges that have resulted in the formation of 3,044 glacial lakes in Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, according to the United Nations.

41 people were killed alone in road accidents in July 2023. This is further aggravated by landslides and other effects of climate change. The danger is still looming over the Northern areas in particular and PMD as well as NDMA have stated that it is unsafe to visit these areas at least until mid-September 2023.

Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province has been inflicted with heavy losses to the tourism industry in the province, official reports state that that it could take up to a year to revive the industry. In the mean time, people are urged to not visit the tourist areas due to the ongoing emergency state and landslides that are occurring among myriad other problems being faced by the locals.

You may also want to check out: Water Scarcity in Pakistan: Reasons, Solutions and Contributions of the Judiciary for the Cause
Also check out: Domestic Tourism in Pakistan – Positive and Negative Impacts

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