By Akhtar Ali (Istach)
Industrialization has led to numerous environmental challenges. Global warming is one of these challenges which can be seen and felt in almost all parts of the world. In developing countries, its impact is much more serious.
Chitral, a mountainous and one of the most backward regions of Pakistan, has repeatedly been affected by natural hazards. Natural hazards such as flood, avalanche, landsliding and earthquake have caused tremendous challenges to the people of Chitral. Although natural hazards have trans-boundary effects the role of local people to make thing worse cannot be ruled out.
It is generally believed that glacier explosion is the only result of global warming which is bringing calamities to the people of Chitral. There is no denying the fact that global warming accelerates glacier melting leading floods in catchment areas on the hand and depletion of water resources on the other. Nevertheless, glacier explosion or glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF) is not the only challenge rather there are other challenges directly and indirectly stemming out from rising global warming.
The most lethal and catastrophic effect of global warming, which affects more regions, is the erratic weather pattern.
Chitral is covered by 77 per cent mountains and 23 per cent comprises riverbeds and plain areas. Unfortunately, almost entire mountainous ranges, except a few in lower Chitral, are barren. The naked mountains cannot hold the fast raining drops which causes run off making deluge in entire plain areas. Contrarily, glacier explosion affects only the catchment area of a respected glacier.
Also read: Climate change and Chitral
It is a fact that harsh climatic conditions make the region bare but the impact of anthropogenic activities to wipe forest out from the mountains cannot be ruled out. Overgrazing, besides cutting fuel trees, is one such activity to the nudity of mountains in Chitral. Animals, especially goats, eat small plants and herb making the soil soft. The degradation of soil because of the overgrazing cannot support to hold water drop of fast running. Thus animal grazing increases likelihood of flood in the region which indiscriminately affects the whole region.
Rearing of animal has been one of the oldest occupations of the people of Chitral. People meet their economic needs through the breeding of cattle. Since the region is neither suitable for agriculture owing to the unavailability of enough land, harsh climatic condition nor it is industrial zone where people can get work to earn.
What they have the choice to meet their expanses is, rearing of animal. Hence hazards in Chitral are more anthropogenic which needs community based organized effort to coup these challenges.
Afforestation is the most important step to mitigate the natural hazards. It not only restrains the soil degradation and erosion but also helpful to decrease the temperature in the region thwarting the glacier fast melting. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has initiated a billion tree tsunami programme to counter the environmental challenges.
But in Chitral this programme is difficult to be implemented since the valley spreads over 14,800 square km mostly mountainous areas.
However, public endeavor by voluntarily abandonment of rearing animals and other actions that lead to soil erosion and environmental degradation can be helpful to make successful hazardous preventive programme. But first we have to seek alternative to the economic activities.
As already mentioned, the region is agriculturally poor and industrially backward. Therefore, the people economic dependency remains with cattle breeding.
The only sector which can be an alternative to the existing economic meltdown is the tourism industry. The beautiful valley with snow-capped lofty mountains, unique and distinct culture and traditions of the locals can attract a large number of national and international tourists.
This sector, too, faces serious challenges because of the dilapidated infrastructure. Tourists need better facilities so that they can enjoy the beauty and get amusement. Tourists in Chitral never get those facilities which affect the overall tourism sector.
The incumbent government has better sense about the tourism potential as Imran Khan in his maiden visit to Yarkhun valley had pledged to promote tourism in the region by promising to declare Broghil National Park and improving infrastructure.
To materialize it, our elected representatives should raise their voice on assembly’s floor and different other forums and convince government to expedite work on the infrastructure.
NGOs, INGOs and civil society should also play their parts to mobilize the people about the dangerous impact of overgrazing on the one hand and convince government to improve infrastructure to increase socio-economic activities in the region on the other.