Ahead of Invest Punjab Summit, nature lovers want govt to focus on eco-tourism

Ahead of the Punjab government’s much hyped Invest Punjab Summit slated to be held on February 23 and 24, various organisations are trying to make themselves heard to drive their set of demands. Among a plethora of demands is a demand from environmentalists and nature lovers to protect the environment and boost eco-tourism.

In support of eco-tourism and to protect the environment, the NGO Punjab Action Committee (PAC) and noted Sufi singer Rabbi Shergill have come together to bring about a change. On Friday, several people will be gathering on the banks of Sutlej river near the Mattewara forest and Shergill will enthral them with his melodious numbers on a boat ride.

On what to expect at the Sutlej event, PAC member Gurpreet Singh Plaha said, “There will be a discussion on what we can do to preserve the wealth of the nature for our children; What are good investments that Punjab needs and what are bad investments that we must avoid and how we can preserve the ecology of Punjab and promote eco-tourism in Punjab. The outcome of the discussion will be shared with the government of Punjab as proposals for the Invest Punjab Summit.”

On the upcoming programme, PAC member and a software engineer by profession Jaskirat Singh said, “The wetlands around Sutlej are hosts to migratory birds from Siberia and around the world. One can also meditate at the pristine areas around Sutlej. People can also learn how to watch river dolphins.”

Jaskirat added, “Investments shouldn’t just focus on declaring big numbers i.e crores of investments but also on what sort of investments are happening. In fact, no government has realised that agriculture can be nurtured as agro-tourism and the rich cultural heritage of Punjab has so much potential to be developed as a full-fledged industry.”

He further said, “Brand Punjab is already so popular globally, its food is well accepted worldwide. So why can’t we just focus on tourism and move towards eco-tourism which can protect our environment and at the same time give a boost to many industries, like hosiery, jewellery, artefacts, hospitality and rural tourism, automatically.”

On PAC’s aim, Jaskirat said, “We are trying to draw the attention of the government to think about responsible investment as we too want businesses to flourish in Punjab and people to have ample sources of employment. The weather conditions of Punjab are very conducive for tourism. If Rajasthan can be a hub of tourists, why can’t Punjab which is a land of rivers and has so much to explore? A few progressive farmers have started agro-tourism on their own but it needs to pick up as an industry. Our idea to uphold such individual efforts is to make the government understand the potential of this sector.”

Dr Sunny Sandhu, a Tarn Taran-based medico who lives in France is in India these days. A nature lover, Sandhu had helped organise both the events of Shergill. He said, “On Friday, we will celebrate nature with Rabbi Shergill on Sutlej near Mattewara. Nature lovers can enjoy music, boat rides and can also swim if they wish to. It will be a day of music, poetry, painting, bird watching, nature appreciation and healing.”

An official of the NGO said, “A similar session was organised at Harrike Pattan on the banks of Beas in Karmuwala village of Ferozepur district on February 2 where Shergill had joined nature lovers to celebrate ‘National Wetland Day’.”

Shergill, who is sensitive about Punjab-related issues, extended his support to the PAC. On the banks of Beas he had said, “Punjabis should get serious about saving water and I appreciate the initiative of the environmental activists in making efforts for the same.”

It needs to be mentioned that PAC had spearheaded a campaign to stop the integrated industrial park at Koomkalan area near Mattewara forest due to which the Punjab government had to scrap the 1,000-acre project at that location. The PAC members said the area in question can be developed into a biodiversity park to promote eco-tourism. The Punjab government is yet to take a call on it.

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