.. by Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig
CHITRAL: The people of a conglomeration of narrow valleys of Chitral are hemmed in by high sierras of Eastern Hindu Kush, living in dozens of valleys and each of the valley has got a river from the glaciers of the vast mountain system. There are very poorly built and light weight bridges over these rivers and the modern influx of transport vehicles have broken the bridges because the wooden planks cannot bear the weight of the loaded vehicle. The wood used in these bridges has come from the forests of lower Chitral at very high cost. This form of building bridges over the numerous rivers is against environment. There should be woodless bridges, made of concrete. The use of wood has caused the deforestation of the region. The engineering system has to be shifted from wood to steel and concrete. The broken bridges cannot be rebuilt soon after the flood disasters and a state of discommunication persists for months or years. The policy at provincial level has to be changed.
The high altitude pastures now occupied by Gujoor herders who drive hundreds of goats from lower valleys have been destroyed in the last two to three decades. As the herders bring hundreds of goats with them from lower parts of Chitral and then engage a community and take their goats for payment- in most cases Rs. 500/- per family even if the particular family owns 4-5 goats, he gets wheat flour @ 3 lb. per family per month beside salt, sugar etc. This is a burden on poor families. In this way a big flock of over 300 goats in a smaller village and much more in the larger villages, are driven to alpine pastures where there is insufficient fodder because another herder is also in the same vicinity. The herders keep a good communication network and the goats of the local people are often reported missing or eaten by predators which is mostly a fake report but the herder never pays back some compensation to the owners.
The presence of the large flocks in the high lands eats up all the visible flora and by over grazing the fragile soil of high altitudes gets powdery and a sudden shower triggers a flash flood that runs down the slopes and gets momentum and becomes bigger and bigger and by the time it reaches the settlements in the floor of the valleys the magnitude of the mud/boulder flood spreads and covers the whole cultivated plots, crops are inundated and the owners are rendered destitute .
The whole harvest with houses come under the flood and emergency is declared. It thus becomes a great headache for the local administration as well as for the provincial government. Small amount of cash compensation cannot cover the huge losses. Hence as a first step the arrival and summer stay of Gujoor herders in high altitude above tree line should be banned by the administration in their own interest. In the past the Gujoors never went up to the pastures of upper Chitral and the damages to the scrubs was not great but now it is immeasurable and the fragile landscape cannot bear the burden of thousands of goats in each valley. The Gujoors also use the scrubs and live bushes for cooking and heating and thus denude the soil which is a big loss for range lands. Where dead wood is available they burn it to make charcoal to sell in the market and this is done secretly.
So my contention is that we should switch over from keeping goats, return the Gujoor herders back to their original areas and just focus on the education of our children instead of getting involved in the quarrels of the Gujoor versus the community or Gujoor vs. Gujoor which has been going on in the uplands of the country. Upper Chitral cannot afford large scale grazing because of ecological reasons. .. Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 12 Oct 2022