The impact of tourism on local communities and their environment in Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan: a local community perspective

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The northern area of Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan (GB), has huge tourist potential due to its exotic mountain beauty. According to the GB Tourism Department, a large number of tourists (around 200651) visit GB every year from across the country. Due to a large influx of tourists in the area both positive and negative impacts have been felt especially on the environment and on the local communities. The environmental impacts of tourism were investigated in this research in two districts of GB. Three villages were selected from each of the districts of Hunza and Diamer as the basis of this research. This study was based on the perceptions and attitudes of the respondents. The total number of questionnaires completed was 340 filled from different respondent categories. Results showed that deforestation, loss of biodiversity, generation of solid waste, water, air and noise pollution, damage cultural and heritage sites and are the main environmental issues caused by tourism activities in the villages in these districts. About 42% of respondents said that deforestation and loss of biodiversity were high in the Diamer district while in Hunza 39% of respondents said that solid waste generation was high. Similarly, 21% respondents in Hunza and 14% respondents in Diamer agreed that water pollution is caused by tourism activities. Microbial analysis of water confirmed the presence of Salmonella typhi, E. coli and Enterobacter sp. There were positive impacts of tourism with results revealing that 87% of villagers and 98% of businessmen responded that tourism had provided them with jobs and business during the peak tourism season. Hotels and restaurants are the main source of jobs in GB mainly as porters and guides. According to the data collected dry fruits, medicinal herbs, gemstones and handicrafts provided considerable attractions for tourists. It is recommended that a combined effort be made by the local communities, tourism departments and other Govt. Agencies to ensure the cleanliness of tourist attractions.

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