THIS is apropos of the report attributed to the ‘people of villages of lower Chitral’ (July 25). May I say that luckily Chitral is too small a place for people not to know who is saying what and why they are saying it at all. What is important is to not to lose focus of the subject matter which has led to these controversies, i.e. the brazen way in which Chitral is being denuded of its forests.
Recently Al Jazeera TV was able to record at length the large - scale destruction that has taken place in the small forested area that Chitral has been blessed with. The film will soon be on Youtube for everyone to see. The ‘people of villages of lower chitral’ will then see for themselves what is happening to the trees in the name of ‘windfalls’. The camera will tell the truth.
Your article mentions the ‘poor owners’ of these forests who are going to suffer an economic loss if we manage to stop the large-scale transportation of timber (mostly in the darkness of the night) from Chitral to the timber markets of Peshawar.
The owners of these forests, who should have been the most important players in this forest game, are indeed the most unimportant of all. That is barring a handful of them who have positioned themselves in a leading role within the mafia. Indeed they are harvesting the wood in much more than the meaning of the word implies because they embody ownership, contractor, legislator, administrator all in one.
but let us concentrate for a while on the really ‘poor owners’ of these forests behind whom the writer of this article chooses to hide. In fact, these ‘poor owners’ get little for signing their rights off to the contractors and forest officials.
We intend to double the share of money being received by these ‘poor owners’ the moment we are successful in stopping our forests from being destroyed for commercial cutting.
Moreover, we intend to increase the share being now allowed to the local people of Chitral for building their houses, sheds and even their hotels. We have no doubt in our minds that once we get the teeth of the forest mafia out of our trees, there will then be plenty of genuine windfalls and dead trees to supply the small local market of Chitral where people have to go from office to office to collect ‘permits’ through a system which makes it impossible for local Chitrali people to procure wood for their doors and windows when tons and tons of their trees are mercilessly being taken out of Chitral with no questions asked.
The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa must, for the sake of the province and the country, put an immediate ban on cutting trees in Chitral. If it does not do this soon, then the silt that we in Chitral are increasingly sending down each year to clog up the turbines of the Warsak dam is going to result in diminishing the supply of much-needed hydroelectricity. Something no one can afford to do these days.
Siraj Ulmulk Hindukush Heights Chitral
Green wood SIRAJUL Mulk built his hotel in the early 1990s. Then there was still plenty of dead wood available. He obtained his wood legally. It was not smuggled. Dead wood is the best for building. Green wood shrinks. This is only what we have left in Birir to build our houses. Either that or stones which have become very expensive, as the transportation cost of the jeeps carrying them has risen due to the high cost of fuel.
I would suggest that these elders go up in the jungle and take a look. Have they witnessed dead wood going out of the valleys with young green trees embedded with the dead branches? Have they seen the big trucks carrying timber across Gahiret Bridge or on the main road between Gahiret and Kesu at midnight?
This writer had been many times in the jungle, and I am afraid that the forest cover has shrunk alarmingly in the last three decades.
Perhaps, the people of Lower Chitral are not worried about losing their fields and property to floods, which will become worse with the passing of years.
I should also like to take issue with the correspondent. I would suggest he spend more time in the Kalash Valley and study their culture.
For the Kalash, the keeping of chickens is strictly a taboo. This comes under the impure realm. Unless the writer or observer understands this dichotomy, which runs through the Kalash culture of the pure and impure realm, he will never understand the Kalash.
Besides, the Kalash are goat herders. The more affluent may keep a few cows, which trek daily from the valleys to the summer fields, usually led by women or children.
Why do we so often have to be assailed with such nonsense about the Kalash?
MAUREEN LINES Director Hindu Kush Conservation Association/ Kalash Environmental Protection Society Peshawar