In late 2004 I visited Gobor, a beautiful valley bordering Afghanistan near Durrah Pass, 15 miles to the north of Garam Chashma. I was fascinated by its natural beauty and unique culture, which the people had preserved despite pressures of modernity in nearby areas. Its inhabitants are known as Shaihks (new converts from red Kalasha) still sharing some of their old ways of life. I found its environment to be equally virgin and plantation so delicate that every plant appeared to be calling upon me not to touch it. I shared my experience with many nature lovers face to face and through the media. I also remember having advocated a website by the name ”Gobor. Com” to market the tourism potential of the area for tourism and suggested holding of Gobor festival to highlight it for nature lovers, adventurers and cultural tourists. But unfortunately to my dismay this idea was hijacked by certain unscrupulous elements to make quick bucks at the cost of destroying the virgin natural beauty of Gobor.
For the past few years local leaders with the help of NGOs and few officials have been holding this festival without taking necessary precautions not to harm the environment. The way it is arranged amounts to making culture a prostitute for the pleasure of the few rich people. No public transport is arranged to ferry people to and from Gobor, leaving the rich people having their own transport to have access to the venue to the exclusion of the general public. The simple folks of Gobor who make subsistence living through animal husbandry are made to pay for hospitality, while the income raised by the organizers is pocketed. This gold mine for a few has increased the woes of the poor and posed grave threats to the virgin valley’s eco-system.
This year the local Councilor managed to bring District Nazim and Local Government Minister of KPK to Gobor festival. Announcements were made to develop Gobor but no words were uttered to cleanse the festival venue and its surroundings of the enormous garbage generated during the festival. The virgin beautiful valley now gives a look of garbage dumping ground. The venue littered with waste would only be washed away by rain water and drained to the river polluting it all the way and poisoning the precious trout breeding water also used for drinking purposes by the people downstream. The upland area has been devastated by overgrazing through “Qalang’ (renting out for grazing) and the eroded soils is then washed down the stream in the form of flash floods and silting, causing diversion of river course and dislocation of people. The Government prefers to sleep over the laws requiring it to protect shared lands and the environment.
It is time people stopped looking towards the Government and their self-serving leaders and join hands to protect their natural environment. Only through living close to nature we have survived and can survive. Inviting disasters and compensations is not sustainable, especially now when climate change makes natural disasters more of a rule than exception. — Islamuddin in Garm Chashma Diary, Chitral, 06 Sep 2016