By Z.A.Zulfi (Booni, Chitral)
Chitral, the largest district of KPK, remains cut-off from the rest of the country for six months of the year due to the closure of the Lowari top, the mountainous range of Hindu Kush mountain. As a result, majority of the population in Chitral remains hibernated for many months. During this season, they also suffer at the hands of contractors, business owners and other stakeholders.
One could often find such narrations or commentaries in any literature about Chitral. The above description, often seen with many other challenges faced by the people of Chitral, does not stand true for the present day Chitral as it has been provided with the all-weather route through Lowari tunnel. With the construction of Asia’s largest road tunnel, Chitral has now gained popularity and has come to the focus of the other people. The tunnel has been showing its positive and negative impact on the socio-economic life of the people of Chitral. Though the use of this tunnel is still very limited, however, it has solved many difficulties faced by the region and its inhabitants. The tunnel is not only opening many opportunities but it has many threats to be brought about with it that have an unending and everlasting outcomes on the life style of the people.
Moreover it is said that the tunnel will lead to the central Asian country and China and will provide a shortest route for transportation of goods besides people to people contact of the region. In this way the very old relation between the two countries will be revived, as we had many historical, traditional, cultural, social and religious links with Central Asia and China.
The pace of development is being accelerated by different forces during this short type after the formal opening of the tunnel for public use. We have seen a drastic rise in the land price in Chitral besides other indicator such as flow of outsider from down country. In the following line a prospective of Chitral is being presented. By looking at the progress and the speed it is visible to all that the geographical, political and socio-cultural entities are taking new shapes. The focus of the discussion is to show that, how much Chitral has potentials that could fulfill national international need along with the improvement in the socio-economic status. Further stress is on the way natural resources can be harnessed in the best interest of the local communities.
Her is a look on the potential sources our district has in the form of hydo electric power generation, mineraology, tourist industry and other fields.
HYDRO POWER ELECTRICITY GENERATION
According to some reports Chitral has the potential of producing electricity that could be enough to resolve the long standing issues of energy crisis in the country. The former provincial government of Amir Hyder Khan Hoti has been very kind to have approved some mega hydal power projects in Chitral to take maximum benefits from the water sources of the Chitral. Golen Gol project in in the process of completion that could produce more than 100 mega of electricity. Moreover, construction work on another mega hydal power project situated at Rawi near Drosh is also on the run. Till the filling of these lines construction work on Istaru (Torkhow)- Awi Lasht project has started and the SHYDO company is supervising the work. According to some other sources feasibility reports of the another project Nahango mar—Xhindoli(Kushum) has already been presented. Together, all these power plant have one thing common that is the Water level will be raised up to a standard altitude to divert the river flow direction. Within 10 to 15 years big dams will be seen every where such as Istaru, Harchin, Lahch Warch Terich, Reshun and Shoghore.
District Chitral has immense potential of tourism industry. Domestic and foreign tourists often visit this piece of land. Once they visit here then they never come back again to be with many problems especially the communication in the form of access road. One would be in surprise and will not believe that in the whole district hardly 200 km long road is metalled. Tourist industries once used to be a flourishing industry in Chitral, now facing difficulties in the wake of terrorist threat to foreigner. No road access to many valley adds fuel to fire. Foreign and domestic tourists face hardships while travelling and they find it difficult to stay here for a longer period of time.
Chitral is a heaven for international mountaineers and high mountain trackers. It has the Hindukush mountains range. In the old days there used to be a lot of foreign tourists from diverse back ground who visited these valleys and contributed to the economy thus improving the life standard.
Paragliding is another area which needs proper patronage from the government and non governmental organization. This is the area which is exploring a new industry in the region. Para gliders from Chitral are very few in number but they are representing the soft image of the people.
Snow hockey, skiing and other sports could also be given coverage in the area. There are open spaces in side Chitral that can be used as grounds for such sports during both summer and winter season.
Chitral has remained a place of extreme peace and tranquility. The people here are very kind and docile. It has a rich cultural history. The festivals on the occasions of Chitral’s life used to be a source of entertainments and getting together for the people. However, some alien traditions in the names of either modernization (westernization so as to say) or religious extremism (Arabization so to say) have tarnished the real image of Khow culture. They both have pervaded the society. Many traditional and cultural events are no more there. Moreover some of the very important sports have also been going away.
Celebration of different occasions and making them available to the outside world could enhance the life standard, in terms of economic activities, in the region. Jashn e Shandoor has got the focus of the world. There is still need to be done more. Jashn e Chitral, Jashn e Nowruz, Jashn e Qaqlasht and Chilim Chusht in the Kalash living areas and other can also be used as a source of income producing occasions.
Very small area of land in Chitral is cultivable. Majority of the region is surrounded by highest mountain of the Hindu Kush range, which include grazing lands and hard rocks. This land has a largest iron deposits in the Birmoghlasht area. Fine quality marble, mica and emerald have been said be the sources that could be explored to uplift the socio-economic condition of the District. Not only that the existing univerisity campuses should have full fledged mineral laboratories and research centers to explore new areas of findings.
COMMERCIALIZING SPRING WATERS
Many parts of the Chitral have been blessed with sweet waters of spring both hot and cold. This gift of nature has often been ignored when enlisting the natural reservours of fresh and safe drinking water. Research studies on these spring waters and selecting the most safe and drinkable water could also produce huge income for the area. These water could be taken to the market and sell as an alternative of mineral waters. Water and Sanitation Extension program, a project of Aga Khan Planning and Building Service is already working on providing safe drinking water to many villages in Chitral. They could start this project to use the natural resources in effective way
EXPLORING AND REHABILITATION OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES
Chitral is rich to have historical buildings and forts which present a sorry state of the affairs. Their rehabilitation and reconstruction will lead to attract the international researcher and tourist in these areas. Such experimentation has already been done by The Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Baltit and Altit forts at Karimabad,Hunza, Shigar fort and residency, Skardu, Takht e Baber in Kabul, Al-Azhar Park in Egypt and many other places. These places provide a source of entertainment along with the reminding the old historic antiques.
With the other entire negative impacts of human mobility and activities the environmental degradation in the form of deforestation, household and wastage from business, is the most upsetting and shocking phenomenon in Chitral. As a result of rising human activities the river water which is flowing blood of life is being badly contaminated without check by the authorities. Discarding any garbage into the river water has threatened the marine life endangering the fragile life form in the waters.Timber Mafia is active in the destruction world most expensive pine forest. Another threat is posed by global warming and excessive melting of glaciers, and flush floods.
Prevailing notion about the life and people in Chitral is that they are idle and lethargic people. They could not combat the situation in the coming days. All the foreign forces will occupy the business industry and other sector. Majority of the people have this view and they often be seen presenting a bleak and depressing picture of future of Chitral. Before taking into consideration the above assumption one must think for a moment that against all odds, Chitrali people are considered as the most civilized nation. It is a hard fact that, ‘Luck favors the prepared mind’. Throughout the province Chitral is on number three in the ratio of education. We have been persevarent and helping people. God has blessed us with such a natural geography with huge mountainous boundaries that never allow any intruder to sabotage its peace and tranquility. Last but not the least, People from all over Chitral have centuries old relations of diverse kind. Somewhere they are bonded in the chains of tribes, somewhere, they have blood relation, still somewhere that are bonded by geographical and religious identities. Chitralis are in no way isolated from each other. Rather each one of us are linked with each and every other individual by more than one linkages. We need no more than this. Let us build a prosperous and happy future.