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Lost livestock: Bleak days ahead for flood-affected Chitralis

August 01, 2015

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A house damaged in the flash floods in Chitral. — APP
A house damaged in the flash floods in Chitral. — APP
A family heading towards their destination while walking on a damaged road due to recent floods. — APP
A family heading towards their destination while walking on a damaged road due to recent floods. — APP

Ruksana Bibi, a resident of Chitral's Broz village, remembers July 17 as the bleakest day in her life — the day when she lost her precious livestock to nature's wrath.

The 40-year-old woman naively thought that rain, which is a regular occurrence in Hindukush, would help to quench the scorching heat of the mountains.

But when the torrential rain that lashed the sleepy village abated in its ferocity, the woman shockingly discovered that mud and boulders loosened by the downpour had buried her livestock — three cows and dozens of hens.

A small boy who was rescued in the flash floods that hit Chitral. — Photo by author
A small boy who was rescued in the flash floods that hit Chitral. — Photo by author

"More than 100 eggs stored in cattle pens were also washed away in the flash floods,” she says, her face distraught, and her voice choked in emotion.

Ruksana used to sell milk, butter and eggs in the local market to support her six-member family but with no livestock now, her means of sustenance has been rendered virtually crippled.

This photo taken on July 28, 2015 shows men crossing a destroyed bridge during flooding in Chitral. — AFP
This photo taken on July 28, 2015 shows men crossing a destroyed bridge during flooding in Chitral. — AFP

Before this predicament, she led a fairly happy life. Now she frets about her family and the education of her four children. She was the only breadwinner as her husband, who is a farmer, works in his own fields which basically generates him an income.

“I do not have a single penny…I cannot even buy a milk pack for breakfast,” she cries.

Ruksana Bibi's tragic loss is just one among many. Hundreds of Chitrali women who used to earn a living selling milk, eggs and handmade garments have been deprived of their livelihoods in the flash floods that devastated their respective villages.

Local residents say that heavy rains, which commenced earlier this month, washed away more than 300 houses, 100 shops and also damaged standing crops in the area.

According to the latest report of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), 741 cows, 2,476 sheep and goats and 416 poultry animals were killed in the floods.

In a press briefing held a few days earlier, KP Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani had said that around 300,000 people were affected by the floods in Chitral.

"Over 4,000 cattle and more than 100 cattle pens were washed away. The government is conducting a survey and will soon compensate the flood-affectees," he had further said.

Take a look: 0.3m people affected by Chitral floods

However, a local Kulsoom Bibi claims that the government has paid no attention to the sufferings of the villagers.

"Who will compensate us for our losses?" "The government has not even bothered to launch a survey to estimate the losses suffered by us during the recent wave of rains," she laments.

This picture shows a flood-affected area in Chitral. — Photo by author
This picture shows a flood-affected area in Chitral. — Photo by author

The government released Rs300 million for the construction of damaged roads, bridges and water channels and also announced to waive off agriculture loans but it is yet to allocate funds for livestock which is the backbone for Chitralis.

"Almost 80 per cent of the villagers were dependent on livestock as their primary means of livelihood," says a local man, Umar Daraz, whose cow and goats were swept away in the flash floods.

“I cannot buy a cow as it costs between Rs40,000 to Rs50,000, which I'm unable to afford right now,” he despairs.

In a tragic incident, a woman residing in the Green Lasht village of Upper Chitral died in the flash floods. Farman Ali, the husband of the woman, told DawnNews that the couple had managed to shift to a safe location to escape the floods, but his wife returned to the cattle pen to take the cow with her and was subsequently swept away in the rains along with the ill-fated animal.

This picture shows a flood-affected area in Chitral. — Photo by author
This picture shows a flood-affected area in Chitral. — Photo by author

The two-story house of Munawwar Shah — a local artist and resident of Chitral's Zargaran Deh village — was also destroyed in the floods. He says that his family members were also displaced as a consequence of their floods and are currently staying with relatives.

The flash floods also wrecked the business of physically-challenged Muhammad Anwar whose garment shop was washed away.

Disappointed with the government's seeming inaction, Muhammad Anwar has now started selling pakoras (vegetable fritters) along the roadside in Upper Chitral's Reshun area.