Sheikhbadin tourist spot in ruins due to authorities’ negligence

Barkatullah Marwat  

Sheikhbadin Mountain is a tourist spot in Darra Pezu town in the southern district of Lakki Marwat, but neither the tourism corporation nor other stakeholders are paying attention to it.  

Sheikhbadin Mountain was declared in 1870 as a tourist spot by the then British rulers, who constructed water reservoirs and water tanks for storing rainwater. Otherwise, there was no other source of water on the hilltop.  

Its historical perspective reveals that before the partition of the Subcontinent, the commissioner Dera Ismail Khan used to attend his office at Sheikhbadin as his summer camp although his permanent divisional office was situated in Dera Ismail Khan. Besides, there were several buildings constructed during the British rule, which are now in dilapidated condition and speak of the indifferent attitude of the government.

The locals and non-locals take interest in visiting the tourist spot for refreshment and enjoyment where they stay, having with them food and other relief items. But they always complain of the problems they face there on hilltop. They also encounter problems in reaching the hilltop either by vehicle or on foot. The 14km long road needs to be blacktopped for an easy access of the tourists.

According to the environmental experts, the tourist spot is located at a height of 6000 feet above the sea level and that’s why it is colder than a number of areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Ironically, none of the governments in the past and the elected members of the Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat paid attention to its development like what has been done in other parts of the country and province.  

In Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) era, the then chief minister Akram Khan Durrani was elected from Bannu district, but he also failed to develop this scenic location.  

With the passage of time, a business tycoon, late Abdur Razzaq Tabba from Karachi, with the help of Saifullah Brothers, decided to install a cement factory in the valley of the Sheikhbadin Mountain in the 1990s. The business tycoon faced numerous hardships while installing the factory as the local leaders opposed it with tooth and nail. But somehow the factory was installed and it started its operation in 1996.    

Initially, it was thought that the factory would bring prosperity and development to Darra Pezu, not to mention Lakki Marwat. But the leases and agreements signed with the local landowners could not materialize and the locals started complaining against its management.

On the other hand, the pollution it started emitting was fatal for the local population and according to available data there are more than 100 people suffering from various diseases. Most of them sold their properties and belongings for the treatment of their dear ones and now they are living a very miserable life as they cannot afford further treatment.

Sheikhbadin Mountain has been eroded and cut by the cement factory as the raw material being extracted from the mountain is being used in the preparation of the cement. According to the experts and local people, one day the mountain would be swallowed by the factory the way it is using its materials and stones.

Questions arise here: how can a tourist spot be a healthy place when environmental pollution caused by the factory continues affecting and polluting it? Is there any industry or factory installed in other tourist spots like Murree, etc.?

Prime Minister Imran Khan, soon after taking over his office, announced to develop tourist spots to generate more revenue. It’s really surprising to see the indifferent attitude of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government towards the development of this tourist spot. Sheikhbadin spot has neither been developed nor kept clean and neat of the pollution being caused by the cement factory for years.

Former Member National Assembly Col (R) Dr Amirullah Marwat tried his best to develop this tourist spot by holding meetings with the provincial government and tourism department officials but his relations with the then chief minister Pervez Khattak were not so good and that’s why he failed to convince the provincial government to pay attention to its development.

There are some suggestions to the government for the development of the Sheikhbadin tourist spot: to make sure that the cement factory is not harming the mountain either by eroding or cutting; to make sure that the pollution being caused by the factory is not affecting the environment of the tourist spot; to make sure how much amount would be earmarked in provincial Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the construction of a proper blacktopped road to the mountain and other buildings, including official and non-official accommodations and hoteling.

A resident of Darra Pezu, Muhammad Farooq, said: “Most of the people tend to move to colder parts in summer season like Swat, Kalam, Murree, Kashmir, Chitral and Abbottabad, etc. but I am surprised why they don’t do something for the development of Sheikhbadin Mountain as it also has the same weather.”

“The government should not only pay attention to develop the tourist spot but also take drastic measures to check the environmental pollution being caused by the factory,” said Muhammad Ismail, who is former president of the cement factory’s workers’ union. He added that the government and factory owners should compensate the affected families.

After all, a question arises as to who should heed the development of this tourist spot: the tourism corporation KP, district administration or other government authorities?  

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