MINGORA: Culture activists and archaeologists here on Saturday pledged to make joint efforts for the revival and promotion of archaeological tourism in the region.
They were speaking during a seminar on Sustainable Archaeological Tourism and Role of Local Communities in Heritage Conservation at Swat Museum, Saidu Sharif.
The event was jointly organised by the Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan, Archaeology Tourism Project and department of archaeology in museums with the support of Suvastu Arts and Culture Association, and Swat Archaeological Guides Association.
Civil society members, culture activists, officials of tourism department, and representatives of hotel industry, archeologists and media showed up in large numbers.
Aftab Rana, president of Sustainable Tourism Foundation in Pakistan, said the seminar was organised to create public awareness of sustainable archaeological tourism in Swat valley and to discuss the role of stakeholders, especially in the conservation of archaeological heritage in Swat, which was a great tourist attraction in KP.
He said sustainable tourism meant to respect local culture and avoid and damage or harm to local archaeological sites and not to spread any pollutant thing at the site.
“Majority of visitors to Swat seems to be unaware of the rich culture and archaeological heritage, so we want to promote archaeological tourism by initiating an off-season tourism and create recourses of earning to the communities living closer to the archaeological sites,” he said.
Massimo Vidale, a professor of archaeology at the University of Padova, Italy, who has been busy with excavation under the Italian archeological mission in Swat since 2000, said he was proud to be part of the Archaeological Community Tourism project with the involvement of local community in archeology in Swat.
“We have been connected with Swat archaeological heritage and communities since 1955. The new phase of archaeological undertakings by Italians with the department of archaeology to promote tourism is really a successful tool,” he said.
Massimo Vidale said tourism was the most important industry in the world as the people took interest in their past.
“The people want to know about others’ culture. They want to know why and what are the difference in other cultures and civilisations for which they are ready to pay and visit,” he said, adding archaeology tourism was one of the best means of earning and learning.
He said he had been working in different countries as Iran, India, Turkmenistan, Nepal and Iraq but he had never found workers more intelligent, dedicated and loving than Swatis.
Zarwar Khan, an archaeology professor in the University of Swat, said internationally where there was archaeology, there was an active tourism.
“Countries like China, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Egypt and Greece earned huge foreign exchange due to cultural and archaeological tourism. Archaeology in Swat is highly important and sacred to Buddhists, who used to visit Swat in droves before militancy,” he said.
He said the government was trying to re-attract Buddhist tourists to Swat as the area was very peaceful once again.
Suvastu Arts and Culture Association chairperson Usman Ulas Yar said he and his colleagues were ready to work for the protection and promotion of Swat’s culture heritage.
Faizur Rehman, curator of the Swat Archaeological Museum, said the archaeology department in Swat was going to initiate a campaign to promote Swat archaeological sites in the educational institutions across the valley.
“Students from primary level to university’s will be invited to Swat museum and different archeological sites in Swat where they will be briefed about the history and importance of each site,” he said praising the Italian archaeological mission for extensive work in Swat.
Later, Swat civil society members and cultural activists presented a souvenir to Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, the head of the Italian archaeological mission in Pakistan to recognise his 30 years of services in Swat archaeology.