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The effect of COVID-19 on Dharamsala's tourism

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Daharamsala, Jul 31 (EFE/EPA).- The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh sees itself affected by the coronavirus pandemic with a complete halt in its tourism sector. (Camera: SANJAY BAID)FOOTAGE SHOWS B-ROLL OF DHARAMSALA, HIMACHAL PRADESH (INDIA) AMID THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.

Added on the 31/07/2020 14:00:00 - Copyright : EFE Inglés

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    Nur-Sultan, Oct 06 (EFE), (Camera: Dogan Yildyz, Marat Kurakov and Kulpash Konyrova).- Like an oasis in the desert, the barren Kazakh steppe guards a secret: A pink lake which the locals want to include on the map of the country's sacred places to ensure its preservation.The water of Lake Kobeituz, located about 160 kilometres from Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital, varies in color, from a pale pink to a dark purple, depending on the time of day and the local weather.However, the lake does not always have this range of colors, as it turns pink once every several years, when the summer is especially hot.It is a very rare and short-lived natural phenomenon, which attracts the attention of tourists.There are few lakes of this type in the world, with the best known being Lake Hillier in Australia, Retba in Senegal and Laguna Rosa in Spain.According to scientists, Kobeituz and its "sister" lakes are stained pink due to the presence of a microalgae called Dunaliella salina that causes the water's striking color thanks to a high salt concentration.A PINK LAKE WITH HISTORYKazakh elders are among the few locals who remember the history of Kobeituz as the lake's beauty dazzles visitors while its past is ignored."The land in this area was under the rule of Bogenbay Batir (a national hero and one of its most prominent military men of the 18th century). The lake was named in honor of his grandson, Kobey," the patriarch from one of the local villages, Kairken Zhakyp, said.He also explained that "tuz" means "salt", which is why the lake's name can be translated as salty Kobey.CLOSED DUE TO THE PANDEMICWhen Kazakhstan introduced restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic, closing most tourist attractions, Kobeituz was one of the rare exceptions that remained open to the public."We learned of the existence of a pink lake here with salts and mud with healing properties and we decided to see it," a local tourist told Efe, adding that he travels around the country without fear of contracting COVID-19, because he has already recovered from the disease.However, soon after, the authorities were forced to restrict access to the lake due to the large number of visitors who flocked there because of the lack of other leisure activities.The large number of local tourists set off the alarms as experts warned of the consequences of the pilgrimage to the lake's delicate ecosystem.Visitors filled the surrounding area with litter and one resident from the Kazakh capital even drove his car into the water.According to specialists, the damage caused to the lake could take around 15 years to recover.The uproar caused by the behaviour of some tourists, drew complaints from the Kazakh government, resulting in the Ministry of Ecology of Kazakhstan declaring the area a special protection zone.PRECIOUS SALTSDuring the summer, Kobeituz appeared in the Kazakh media on more than one occasion and not for its exceptional color.The press and social media in particular saw advertisements from people who wanted to take advantage of the uncertainty created by the coronavirus to sell salt from the lake as a remedy for the disease.The authors of the scam claimed that the mineral from Kobeituz was a cure for many evils, including COVID-19.For the salt's alleged benefits and healing properties, sellers asked online for up to 5,000 tenge (about $12) per kilo.A LOOK TOWARDS THE FUTUREThe Ministry of Ecology told Efe that not only Kobeituz but other "unique places" in the Central Asian country are now under their control.Among the measures to ensure their preservation, authorities have increased fines for causing damage to nature.At the same time, the ministry spokesperson, Samal Ibraeva, said experts were aware of the impossibility of keeping access to the pink lake closed for a long time.The government's efforts, she said, would focus on creating conditions for sustainable tourism.The ministry said it was confident that with time and the necessary infrastructure, Kobeituz would be able to attract not only local tourists, but also international visitors.The head of the local department for language development, Saylau Zhalkibaev, told Efe that local residents were calling for Kobeituz to be included in the country's map of sacred places to protect it from mass pilgrimages and preserve its delicate ecosystem."This status will also allow us to give talks about the history of this place for school children, as well as for local and foreign travelers," he explained.ECOLOGY TRAININGTo avoid further incidents at Kobeituz and other tourist spots in the country, authorities plan to introduce "ecology culture" classes.According to the Ministry of Ecology spokesperson, this year, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has called for a new subject to be taught in the country's schools: "ecology."The director of a tourist company based in the Kazakh capital, Nuria Bashirova, confirmed the need for these measures."At present, our tourists are discovering the wonderful jewels that nature has given our country, which has not benefited these places," the director of The Velvet Season said.Bashirova explains that the situation is due in the first place to the lack of environmental culture and also to the lack of access to places with great tourist potential.SHOT LIST: FOOTAGE OF LAKE KOBEITUZ, TOURISTS AND POLICE. SOUND BITES BY THE PATRIARCH OF ONE OF THE VILLAGES IN THE AREA, KAIRKEN ZHAKYP, BY A TOURIST, BY MINISTRY OF ECOLOGY SPOKESPERSON SAMAL IBRAYEVA, BY THE HEAD OF THE LOCAL DEPARTMENT FOR THE LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT, SAYLAU ZHALKIBAEV, AND BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE TOURIST COMPANY THE VELVET SEASON IN THE KAZAKH CAPITAL, NURIA BASHIROVA .INCLUDES PHOTOS BY TWITTER USER @YAKOVFEDOROV OF THE DAMAGE TO THE LAKE.KAIRKEN ZHAKYP: “Around the lake there were and still are "zhailauz" or summer pastures where horses graze. And near the lake, our ancestors used to pitch tents to slaughter rams, rest and enjoy the lake and its extraordinary color."LOCAL TOURIST: "The whole family came here. We all had coronavirus. We recently learned of the existence of a pink lake here with salts and mud with healing properties, and we decided to see it.”SAMAL IBRAYEVA: “The first step is to toughen the penalties for damaging nature by increasing fines. One of the main tasks of our department is to protect our rivers, lakes and mountains from damage. But we cannot ban people from visiting nature. At such a difficult time during the quarantine period, people want to relax in nature, breathe fresh air in the mountains, next to the lakes. Therefore, secondly, the ministry will focus on educating the population about the environment."SAYLAU ZHALKIBAEVENT “We propose to include the Kobeituz and the ancient mausoleums found in this area on the map of the country’s sacred places.” “This status will also allow us to give talks about the history of this place to schoolchildren, as well as to local and foreign visitors."NURIA BASHIROVA: “During the pandemic, Kazakhs explored these places and unfortunately this does not always benefit nature. We don't know how to spend our vacations without harming nature and we don't have the necessary infrastructure."Keywords: efe,kazakhstan,kobeituz,pink,lake,environment,covid-19,pandemic,tourism

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  • Lake Kobeituz, the pink jewel of the Kazakh steppe

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