By Ayan Baig (Brep)
Few years ago there were reports that Grovur Gol in Yarkhun valley of Chitral would be turned into a national park by the KP government in collaboration with a foreign donor agency.
Though it seemed a very progressive idea, most of the people living in scores of villages from Brep to Meragram No 2 expressed apprehension that how such a project could be launched in an area on which the residents directly depended for their livelihood. This was because Grovur comprises a number of hamlets and a large pasture solely owned by people of Brep, Phashk, Khruzg, Meragram, Dizg, Mahting and Yukum etc.
There were also reports that a handful of people having access to government departments were trying to declare Grovur as a national park and reap the benefits depriving the other stakeholders of their ownership rights on the land.
People living in Brep to Meragram No 2 villages having ownership rights on Grovur belong to different clans such as Rizakhel, Syed, Sheghneay, Zondray, Latifey, Khruzravey and Baraley.
For centuries, people of these villages have had access to the narrow valley of Grovur located on the right bank of river Yarkhun in front of Mahting village by digging a road every year in the spring and remained working there in the limited plain areas to grow different crops and gather fodder for their animals for the whole winter. In the winter the people could be seen taking fodders to their villages on their backs. Many people also lost their lives during flash floods in the small villages of Grovur in the summers.
There are small villages scattered inside the Grovur valley leading to a Ghari in the far-off surrounded by mighty glaciers. Grovur is dotted with with juniper and birch trees and home to a variety of fauna and flora. Folk stories also tell invasions on Upper Chitral made by foreign forces, especially from China side, through Grovur Gol.
When we talk of a national park, most of the people of the area do not know about its benefits or implications as regard to their ownership on the land of the valley.
They do not know that when an area is declared a national park, local communities will cease their ownership right on the land, especially in this case when the whole Grovur Gol is owned by people of dozen of villages. They will not be allowed to till the land, cut trees or even bring fodder for their animals.
So it is very important for the government that any move regarding establishment of a national park in Grovur Gol should never be taken without taking the local communities into confidence. Grovur Gol is not like any other mountainous area. It has arable land developed by the local communities decades ago and cannot be snatched away from the owners on the pretext of establishing a national park.
It is also necessary to point out here that some people, as mentioned above, might be interested in turning Grovur Gol into a national park but they are doing so for their vested interest. But poor people who depend on the agricultural produce from Grovur will never accept such an idea if their interest are not safeguarded.