In Band-i-Amir, a boost for dairy products market
BAMYAN CITY (PAN): The dairy market in Band-i-Amir in the central province of Bamyan has benefited from Afghan and foreign tourism.
Band-i-Amir is a historical site located 72 kilometres northwest of Bamyan City in the Yakawlang district of the province. With seven natural lakes and sweeping views, it was declared Afghanistan's first national park in 2009.
The lakes are surrounded by shops and tents, where tourists stay in summer. There are also 18 hotels of different sizes in the area where many guests come each night.
Nearly 600 families from 17 villages make a living there by selling dairy products such as milk, yogurt, butter, dried curds and a yogurt drink. Hotel owners also sell goats and sheep to sightseers.
The house closest to Band-i-Amir lakes belongs to the mother of Mehdi, who has two cows and some sheep. She says the dairy market is better this year than last.
"When the tourists pitch a tent near my house, I take milk, yogurt drink and curd, which they buy quickly," the woman, 43, told Pajhwok Afghan News. "Thank God, I earn about 500 afghanis [$10.50] each day from sales."
Her family has six members and her husband works on others' farms for wages, she said. The family sometimes rents their guestroom to tourists for 500 afghanis a night, a relatively new but now common practice.
"We became bored in Kabul from too much pollution, so we came here for refreshment," said Mohammad Qayyum, while visiting the area with his family.
He bought dairy products in a nearby village for his family, saying that he preferred them to those produced elsewhere. He said he and his family have decided to stay in the area for a week.
A resident of Khakdeh village, Syed Kazim, said he sells six kilograms of milk daily to hotel owners at a cost of 500 afghanis a kg. In previous years, there were not enough buyers for his products.
Mohammad Ewaz, who hails from the Foladi Valley on the outskirts of Bamyan City, said he constructed a small hotel in the area two years ago. Last year, he made only 1,500 afghanis a day.
But now he earns 5,000 to 6,000 afghanis from the hotel each day. He also owns eight tents, each of which he rents for 500 afghanis per night.
The mayor of the district, Mohammad Nabi Mubarez, said his office had not studied the benefits of tourism, but his impression was that residents were enjoying their work.
The provision of facilities for tourists was one factor that had improved the area's economy, he said. A team of French doctors who work in western Ghor set up camp in the area two days ago. One of them said they visit the area twice or three times a year.
Information and Culture Director Mohammad Ibrahim Akbari said that Band-i-Amir is a tourist destination between May and September each year. Approximately 2,000 people visit the area on Thursdays and Fridays, twice as many as last year.
He said the increased tourism was partly a result of the construction of the Kabul-Bamyan highway, as well as the area's newly declared status as a national park.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock began work on a tourism complex two months ago in the area. The construction is expected to be completed within the next year, at a cost of $700,000.
The complex will include a tourist information centre, a guest house, information and security centres, guard towers, a car park, a power generator room and warehouse, he said.
Mubarez said they have destroyed hotels in the national park, which were below standards and affected the beauty of the national park. The municipality plans to set aside space for hotels in other areas of the park.
The people said that only 40 kilometres of the road from provincial capital had been paved over the past year, but the remaining 32 km of the road was still unpaved.
The seven lakes are Gholaman, Qambar, Haibat, Panir, Pudina, Zulfiqar, and Barbar. A team of divers from Germany measured the depth of the lakes at 90 metres in 1973. There is also a police checkpoint near the national park.
The municipality rents the park to a private business for 150,000 afs a year. The business charges are 50 afghanis for a car entering the park, according to the mayor.
The tourism department earned $400,000 in 2010, and has nearly doubled its income this year. Over 41 Afghan and 600 foreign tourists visited the province in last year.
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