World Heritage List of UNESCO about Pakistan comprises Archaeological Ruins at Mohenjo-daro, Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-BahlolTaxila, Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore, Historical Monuments at Makli, Thatta and Rohtas Fort. Around 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the world are popular tourist destinations. It is believed that some of the popular of sites receive whopping 10 million visitors each year adding to the economic growth of the respective country besides addressing unemployment and beefing up the image of the country. Even if a country attracts one million tourists and in case one tourist spends paltry one thousand US dollars, the country gets one billion US dollars. This could alter the economic landscape of a country and in fact there are myriad of instances in this regard. A deluge of countries have focused on tourist attractions thereby turning around the economy. The Forbidden City in Beijing China, a palace complex that was in use from the Ming Dynasty in 1420 to the end of Qing Dynasty in 1912, is the most visited UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world attracting over 16 million visitors.
There are similarities in the heritage sites of Egypt and Mohenjo-daro. The foreign tourist visits to Mohenjo-daro have decelerated dramatically over the period of last three decades, to be precise. The number of foreign tourists are more or less zero today whereas millions of tourists visit Egypt for Pyramids of Giza, Luxor’s Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel, Siwa Oasis, St. Catherine’s Monastery, Abydos Temple and Saqqara.
Though Mohenjo-daro or ‘mound of the dead’ was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, the heritage site is subject to erosion and improper restoration exhibiting the performance of the culture department of Sindh. No concrete measures have ever been taken to promote the site to attract the tourists.
A deluge of German, Japanese, Chinese etc. researchers have visited Mohenjo-daro and have rated the site as first-rate tourist destination. However, the despicable neglect on the part of the relevant authorities, this ancient pearl with 5000-year-old civilization has almost gone into abyss. It is heart wrenching that no one has ever been held accountable for this loss rather tall claims are made every year for the restoration and promotion. It is flabbergasting that there is no attention given to the infrastructure such as airport and the roads leading to the site. Mohenjo-daro airport is in a sorry state and the number of PIA flights operating from Karachi to Mohenjo-daro airport speak volumes of the interest of the authorities. Facilities for the tourists are dilapidated. Hotels in Larkana, the adjacent place to the site, are not worth staying as such from the point of view of quality service and security. In the summer, temperatures soar nearing 50°C, however, there are no befitting arrangements in place for the foreign tourists.
On top of that the run-down transit system in Larkana scares away not only the foreigners but also the locals. The state of the scarce resources have been pivotal in the deceleration of the number of foreign tourists to the once popular site of Mohenjo-daro in the Larkana district of Sindh. It is beyond imagination now that the once hugely popular with historians, archaeologists and tourists, Mohenjo-daro has gone into disarray.
There is the light at the end of the tunnel. One could hope that the culture department of Sindh would take some steps forthwith to turn around the long-awaited situation. An international conference was held at Mohenjo-daro a couple of years ago which was attended by many foreign archaeologists and historians. One swallow does not make a summer. The outcome of that international conference seems to have lost.
A delegation of Britons visited ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization in the beginning of this year and took keen interest in the ancient city of the dead. Let’s see what turn out from the visit of this delegation. It is hoped that in the not-too-distant future, the government would at least renovate the Mohenjo-daro airport for which Multan airport could be a model. In addition, the run-down roads must be the primary focus for the convenience to the foreign tourists.
Had Mohenjo-daro been in Europe or North America, the world would have known amply about this hitherto virtually unknown treasure of Sindh and millions of tourists would have visited it each year. Once a tourist is at the main gate of Mohenjo-daro or enters the site, the interest of the custodians could easily be noted. No one cares!