Just as we were about to go to press with the summer 2015 newsletter update from Maureen, disaster has struck the Kalash Valleys again with floods far worse than those of 2010, we received the following desperate email from Chitral:
Floods have again struck Pakistan, with renewed ferocity. They have left a trail of destruction in Chitral, other areas of KPK and Punjab; and are now threatening Sindh and Baluchistan. Villages upon villages have been washed away, creating untold difficulties for the survivors. In the plains, communication can be restored relatively easier using boats. Undertaking rescue and relief operations are comparatively easier, if there is no interference for the vested interests. Story of Chitral is very different.
a. Landslides of thousands of tons of mud, at avalanche speed, carrying with them huge boulders and rocks have shot through the villages, homes and hearths of poor peasants; burying in them their dear ones, their belongings, their cattle and the crops. They are without tools to dig for the survivors.
b. Surviving injured are in pain, dying, or maimed without any medicine or medical care. There is no food or drinking water and no milk for babies. There is little fodder for the surviving cattle.
c. Chitral nights can be very cold. There are no lights, no telephones, no clothings, no beddings no heating and above all no shelters, not even tents. And the merciless rains go on. People are living constantly under a terrifying threat of more landslides.
d. Roads and bridges have been washed away. Weather permitting, Air Force planes and Army helicopters have been flying relief sorties. Those people who can, have moved sometimes miles uphill on foot to safer places carrying their injured, their children and meagre belongings.
e. For rebuilding homes, roads, bridges, protective bunds and walls, we have only 4 months before the winter rains start.
From Prime Minister down to lower level Government officials have visited Chitral. Imran Khan and scores of other politicians have flown over the calamity stricken area. Strangely they are all behaving as if the disaster has struck some other planet. They are busy in squabbling over things closer to their hearts. And the people are frolicking from “Karachi to Lahore” and beyond. All they want is partying and attending Festivals.
Barring a few sensitive souls, the Media is more involved in solving mystery of Mullah Umar’s death, or flashing Bollywood scandals. It is truly a matter of shame!
Our Northern Areas and Chitral have mountains which are prone to land sliding. For centuries forest trees have protected 45 degree slopes of Chitral mountains against erosion and landslides. We have been protesting against the well connected Timber Mafia who is busy destroying trees in Chitral; not only robbing the nation of its priceless resources, but actually skinning the country alive.
Its proof was seen in videos prepared by local people. The flooded rapids were entirely covered by felled trees, rushing water was not visible. Suggestion by Ms Maureen Lines for planting trees is already late for implementation. Trees planted today will be able to hold the slopes only when they are 45 or 50 years old. Still, it is better late than never.
The newly planted trees need stable slopes. There are methods to stabilize them. Japanese train their people in these techniques. We can make use of their expertise. But working on such a colossal scale, very large amount of funds and resources are required. Required above all is the will to undertake this project and according it the right priority over other show piece projects.
The situation is critical. I am requesting you all to please help the people of Chitral.
Donations can be sent directly to the HKCA bank account as follows for immediate transfer to Maureen in Pakistan.
IBAN: GB85 BARC 2071 0300 5631 45