‘Heaven-on-earth’ is closed for business

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100,000-a-year Galiyat-goers rue the closure of Ayubia Chairlift; no sign of repair work starting even after a month

The tourist hotspot of Ayubia, perched at a height of about 8,000 feet and a virtual paradise for summer-weary excursionists, has temporarily closed its “Jewel in the Crown” attraction, the Ayubia chairlift.

The chairlift broke down on August 20 and the repair work has not started yet.

Ayubia-bound tourists discover to their chagrin that the oldest, and perhaps the most sought-after chairlift of the country is closed since August 20, depriving families, kids and fun-loving youth alike the panoramic aerial view of the sprawling Galiyat dotted with lush jungles, magnificent valleys and towering hills.

“The chairlift was an economical source of entertainment for tourists and its closure has deprived them of fancy joyrides,” said Amjad Iqbal, a resident of Islamabad who had just returned from Ayubia.

People, longing to immerse themselves in the cool air and tall pine trees of Galiyat, including the nearby Nathiagali naturally rue the closure of the chairlift at Ayubia, named after the former president Ayub Khan, who ordered its import from Switzerland and installation in 1962, well over half a century ago.

Since then, people have flocked to this spot, nestled among the wooded hills, to use the chairlift overlooking the picturesque surroundings of the 8,000 feet high hill station.

Located at some 26 kilometers from Murree, over 100,000 tourists-a-year flock to Ayubia National Park and the surrounding “Galiyat”, such as Changagali, Doongagali and 8,000 feet high Nathiagali.

Galiyat Development Authority (GDA) Director Raza Habib told APP that the temporary repairing of the chairlift would cost around Rs. 1.5 million to Rs. 2 million, but if it was repaired and overhauled completely it would cost more than Rs 20 million.

Raza Habib said the authority was considering repairing it temporarily and making it functional for the tourists.

Ayubia National Park, the area adjoining the chairlift, is protected 8,184 acres of pristine land located in Abbottabad district. It was declared a national park in 1984.

The Ayubia chairlift attracts huge numbers, not just in summer, but also in winter, as people throng to the scenic resort to enjoy snowfall and gaze at the snow-capped hills while floating on the chairlift.

While the climate remains moderately hot in May and June, the cold sets in when the monsoons come in late July and early August.

As winter starts cold increases gradually in severity until the west winds bring rains. This gives way to snowfall which covers the park through the later part of winter.

According to an accountant of Galiyat Development Authority (GDA), the average per day income of the chairlift in summer season stands at Rs. 200,000 to 250,000 while on weekends it reaches Rs. 300,000 to Rs. 400,000. So, the GDA has already accrued a loss of an estimated Rs. 4 million in 20 days.

According to some other officials of the GDA, officers of Heavy Mechanical Complex Taxila had visited Ayubia chairlift along with GDA’s director technical and examined different sections of the chairlift.

They had also given an estimate of Rs. 20 million for repairing of the chairlift, which the GDA had conveyed in writing to the provincial government. The officials added that Secretary Tourism Azam Khan, who also holds the additional charge of DG GDA, was in Peshawar to resolve the issue.

The chairlift also stopped working in 2010 due to technical faults. Repairing cost Rs 2.5 million at the time. Later, the provincial government of Awami National Party (ANP) leased it out for Rs 294 million. The chairlift was then restored for the tourists on August 11, 2012.

If the incumbent provincial government of KP releases funds for repairing the chairlift, it could avert a daily loss of Rs 200,000.