Sustainable Travel: Tips for Eco-friendly Explorations around Pakistan

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Environment

Finding a new scenic location to fall in love with is perhaps the highlight of the year for most of us. It is no surprise then that, post the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism is regaining traction globally. However, while wanderlust travel is an enviable leisure activity, it does have a long-term cost paid by the planet.

It has been estimated that tourism contributes to 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with a projected 25% increase in carbon dioxide by 2030 compared to 2016.

The Duality of Tourism in Pakistan

In Pakistan, tourism entails an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, developing tourism infrastructure can yield positive results for the economy and facilitate the creation of various employment opportunities. Simultaneously, an increase in local tourism is expected to lead to environmental degradation. Developing a tourism-focused infrastructure may necessitate the consumption of natural resources like water, already scarce in Pakistan, and threaten biodiversity. On the other hand, an uptick in tourism will also lead to a rise in carbon dioxide emissions, further exacerbating the situation.

Research in Gilgit Baltistan in 2019, for example, revealed that local residents witnessed a loss of biodiversity, generation of solid waste, increased pollution, and a threat to their cultural heritage due to a rise in tourism. Importantly, since Pakistan is one of the countries most impacted by climate change, the deteriorating environment also negatively impacts the industry. In 2022, Al Jazeera reported that Lahore’s usually busy tourism industry was “shell-shocked” because of rising temperatures.

This is the dismal Catch-22 facing Pakistan at the moment. Tourism can help the economy but hurt the environment, and the more it hurts the environment, the less viable tourism becomes as an industry.

It is because of this reality that Pakistan needs to focus on developing an eco-friendly traveling tradition.

What Is Sustainable Travel?

Simply put, sustainable travel or tourism ensures that the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of a place is preserved even though people visit it. Essentially, this way of traveling ensures that while you enjoy and are rejuvenated by the places you visit, you are also cognizant and mindful of the impact you have on these places. The goal is to maximize the positive aspects of traveling and tourism, like providing sustainable employment to local communities, without exacerbating the negative impacts.

Here are some tips to ensure eco-friendly travel around Pakistan.

Limit flying

Flying has a significant carbon footprint. It is estimated that one return flight can generate more carbon dioxide than some countries generate in a year. This is why many conscious travel content creators have joined the #NoFly movement. This movement can easily be adapted to local tourism in Pakistan. Rather than booking a flight, consider traveling by land or rail to your destination.

Avoid “Tourist Traps”

The most ‘Instagrammable’ locations rarely live up to the hype, and crowds of tourists can often overwhelm local populations and resources. Instead, do some research and find lesser-known places. This will bring attention to these areas, helping businesses and ensuring sustainability.

Be mindful about what you take and leave behind

Many negative impacts of travel and tourism pertain to tourists’ actions. For example, an uptick in tourism to Gilgit Baltistan was accompanied by an increase in water pollution. Be mindful of how your presence will affect residents and the natural environment. Various eco-tourism projects, like Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan’s ‘Green Trekks,’ emphasize “take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.”

Respect local traditions

Pakistan is not only blessed with scenic locations but also diverse communities. When you travel, be mindful of the communities that reside there. Tourism has the potential to uplift local entrepreneurs and businesses, but this should not come at the expense of the wellbeing and safety of residents. Respect their customs and support their businesses.

Limit plastic usage

Single-use plastics are becoming a threat to Pakistan’s beautiful natural ecosystems. When you visit these areas, opt for alternatives. Take reusable water bottles, containers for food, metal straws, and ensure you have a bag to gather your trash.

Keep your carbon footprint in check

Even with precautions, travel has a carbon footprint. Consider offsetting your carbon footprint using online calculators like Fly Green and supporting programs to offset your emissions.

Overall, while tourism can build industries, economically empower communities, and provide relaxation and leisure, it can also harm the environment. By taking steps, we can ensure that our visits to Pakistan’s wonders do not negatively impact them. 



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