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This article was originally submitted by Areej Shahid
Recently, as the lockdown saw a bit of relaxation and the Northern areas were open for tourism again, my family decided to take a few days off and take a family vacation. We decided to go to Gilgit-Baltistan and the neighbouring marvels that surrounded the area.
It was an amazing experience, transformational and eye opening in so many ways. I enjoyed the clear skies while I prayed every Namaz in a new place (this was the pinnacle of my trip), with a new scent surrounding me, and a feeling of fulfillment that I experienced as I continued to rejuvenate my relationship with Allah.
Originally this trip was planned for 8 days, but due to land sliding and heavy rainfall we were stuck for another 6 days. Those 6 days gave me some time to reflect upon a few things that I witnessed during my trip. One thing that saddened me the most was how some of the most beautiful locations seemed awfully dull due the amount of littering and disposable garbage being irresponsibly thrown there.
One of the places I saw heavily affected by this malpractice was the Attabad lake.
I saw many plastic bottles and wrappers thrown away without an ounce of remorse. Another location which I saw littered was the Naltar lake. This was surprising given the inaccessible, difficult and long journey to the place. But, even then the people who manage to go there make sure they clutter the lake with filth. Where I wanted to stand at the edge of Allah’s beautiful landscape and breathe in the fresh air, I ended up smelling rotting diapers and decayed garbage.
Before leaving for the trip, we as a family decided to not dispose diapers, plates, bottles and other material on these places. We always carried garbage bags with us and ensured that we only put them in dumpsters. Where we could have taken more prudent steps to ensure an eco-friendly trip, the lack of facilities in the area posed as a challenge to our motives as well.
The dustbins were surely placed at great distances from each other, very few signs put up to remind what a treasure this piece of land is and rarely any prompts by the locals on how offensive it is to litter their homeland. As much as I wish these were unsaid rules, we as people are not there yet.
When I went to the beautiful land of Astore, I tried to look for a dustbin to throw tissues.
Seeing my helplessness, one of the local kids pointed me towards a heap of garbage and asked me to throw it there. This happened twice on this trip. On inquiring I found out that this is a normal practice in that area and unfortunately a painful practice.
While going to Khunjerab Pass, I noticed the road was clean. Why? Because the authorities take action in case someone makes the mistake of throwing garbage irresponsibly. I have seen people being stopped and warned. Why can’t the same happen for the entire North?
Upon returning, I have been caught in a thought to bring about a change. I have been to the North multiple times in all these years and each time I see the beauty fading away under the heaps of our irresponsibility. It is our country, it is for us to preserve and for us to respect. If we are blessed with this immense beauty, it is our right to take care of it.
After much reflection, in my humble capacity, I have decided to start an initiative called “Clean The North”.
What do I require? A show of hands of a few sincere people who are willing to; literally, roll up their sleeves and get cleaning. In the past few years, several countries decided to clean up their seas, and I think that’s amazing, so why can’t we clean up a few lakes?
Honestly, there’s no better way to serve the North but respect it enough to actually make an effort towards cleaning it. Join hands with me in this campaign, which will change the way things work, for good InshAllah.