Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Flooding in Rumbur Valley (Chitral-Pakistan) as I Have Seen (2015)

Flooding in Rumbur Valley (Chitral-Pakistan) as I Have Seen (2015)
Text and Photographs: Muhammad Kashif Ali

Deforestation and flooding in Rumbur river of Rumbur valley Kalash-Chitral
The flooding phenomenon is not newer for the Kalasha valleys of Hindu Kush Range, Chitral Pakistan but intensity and chaos in ecological system is a big question. I am visiting all three Kalasha valleys (Bumboret, Rumbur & Birir) since 2007 for academic research in domain of cultural history of the region (earlier for my MPhil and currently for my Ph.D). There were floods in the valleys before 2010 but not roaring and crushing flooding rather “soften” floods with least harm to valleys and dwellers. 
 Fetching water from muddy springs
Since 2010 the people of all three Kalasha valleys are under roaring pressure of respective rivers flowing in Bumboret, Rumbur & Birir valleys, with hardships they restore their lives in a year hardly and again stuck and hit by havoc flooding from high pastures where hundreds of hundreds goats and sheep ignite floods with their hundreds of thousands tiny hooves.
 Flood struck homes (Palarog Village, Rumbor Valley)
I had a plan to stay in Rumbur valley for academic data collection for a month in July and August, to materialize the plan I left my home town with my family (including three kids of 10, 7 and 2 years ages) for Chitral on July 13, 2015 and the same day first wave of the flood hit Chitral & adjacent valleys. From July 13, 2015 to August 04, 2015 (as long was my stay) there with help of my native friends I counted some 40 waves of floods in Rumbur Valley causing damaging dozen of fields, houses, washing away bridges, destroying patches of roads, hitting water mills and demolishing water channels, in nutshell paralyzing normal life in Rumbur one of the Kalasha valleys.
Flood struck orchard (Rumbor Valley)
The floods in Rumbur flow downwards from four high pastures: Bahuk, Ostuee, Chimiksunn and Gangalwaat. These high pastures are habitat of Pine, Cedar, Juniper and Oak largely. However, for four or five decades, as my local informant told, the timber mafia is massacring the jungles cold-bloodedly and the slopes of meadows are getting naked and vulnerable to inviting unexpectedly flooding. 
Jeep track of Rumbur Valley is washed away
Due to continuous flooding and disconnecting Rumbur valley from Chitral town the shops (might be counted on finger tips) got abandoned in couple of weeks and the valley was on brink to hunger when a chopper of Pakistan Army landed in valley to distribute relief ration provide by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). My family also had to collect ration from relief package for survival. 
The lonely jeep track of Rumbur Valley is washed away
During my stay in the valley the Army chopper visited the valley just twice but it was not going to fulfill the basic needs of the valley, the people were in miserable situation, the watermills had been damaged and people had to fetch ration form relief or nearby bazar Ayun. They were adopting mountain top route on foot about 25 to 30 km, one side. And when we had to leave valley for our survival, my poor kids also had to adopt the same route and the lady was also not familiar with such unfriendly trekking.
Local community repairs water channel by themselves
The flash flood badly affected the tourism season in the valley. A bounty number of tourists visit Kalasha valleys during summer and especially during Eid vacations. The local and international tourists mark the Kalasha valleys as their fascinating destination for their culture and natural beauty. Alas! The shopkeepers, guides, guesthouse owners in valleys were looking towards tourists but flood abruptly shattered their plans and dreams. The brutal Rumbur River engulfed number of fields with crops and definitely it will cost livelihood and food for valley fellow and their cattle in coming winter. 
Tourist leaving valley via mountain top route on foot (est. 30 km)
The flood could be softened if:
·         Stop deforestation & a strict ban on cutting trees
·         Plantation on naked slopes and along with river
·         Providing alternative fuel for winter survival
·         Reducing number of goats & sheep
·         Constructing defensive walls alongside the river

All this can happen with participation of local people, the people need capacity building regarding ecology system, climatically change, importance of forests. And, obviously the people need alternative sources of income as currently they rely upon pastures agriculture largely while on tourism partially. I strongly feel the fruits, dry fruits processing units may be installed, mineral water plants may be another option for employing the local population. The local community should have proper proportion in services. With all these efforts we may lessen their dependence over high pastures which may prevent the area from brutal flooding which was not common before 2010. Let’s try to give a safer future to our future generations.

Originally published online by Chitral Times on November 16, 2015 but without photographs, here is online story

The author is Lecturer in History at University of Gujrat-Pakistan, perusing PhD and is accessible via