Traffic moves through snow in Barriyan Bazaar, a market on the border between Punjab and KP. — Photos by the writer
Traffic moves through snow in Barriyan Bazaar, a market on the border between Punjab and KP. — Photos by the writer

MURREE: Snow in Murree and the Galiyat brings thousands of tourists and good business for local traders and hoteliers, but for the 90pc of Murree Town’s population that lives in rural areas, heavy snowfall brings severe challenges to daily life.

The rural areas in Murree Town extend from Satra Mile in the west to Kohala in the east, and from Barriyan Galiyat in the north to Kotli Sattiyan in the south.

In some of villages, the power supply was suspended for several weeks while others link roads were closed off by snow because the highway department and town administration do not remove snow from link roads.

Hill Dholo Road, Orra Tapa Kair Road, Neergoli Kasairi Link Road, Mussiyaari Road, Pahaphril Road, Hata Noor Khan Road, Dhar Jawa Road, Sandiyaan Road, Massot-Barriyan Road, Aliot-Danna Link Road, Bhurbhan-Rawat Road, and a number of other roads that cater to thousands of commuters were closed for a week because of the snowfall.

Barriyanto Lorra Road, which is used by a population of more than 15,000, was closed because of heavy snowfall in the area. Residents of Seer Sharqi and Gharbi protested in Barriyan Bazaar and stopped machinery belonging to the highway department, demanding that the officials clear their roads first.

Although schools are closed in the winter, students with upcoming board examinations in February have been facing problems as well. Locals have appealed to the authorities in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to set special schedules for these exams in such areas.

Many people had difficulty reaching hospitals and healthcare facilities because of the closed roads. In some cases, this even led to the deaths of people who needed medical care, journalist Ishtiaq Abbasi, a resident of the Malkot village on the border between Murree and the Galiyat, said.

The heavy snow on Aliot-Danna Road in Murree. — Photos by the writer
The heavy snow on Aliot-Danna Road in Murree. — Photos by the writer

“The media usually highlights tourists’ visits and their problems, but the problems of 90pc of Murree’s inhabitants in the rural areas are not covered,” Danna Aliot village resident Nambardar Ansar Abbasi said.

He added that about 20 kilometres of the road from Jika Gali to Bhurbhan village was cleared “just to facilitate VIP tourists visiting a five-star hotel, but areas of less than a kilometre used by rural residents were not cleared.”

“For the last eight dates, during the last snowfall, the power supply in Upper Masoot and its adjoining areas was suspended and the supply was not restored despite various complaints,” Waqar Mansoori, a local resident, told Dawn.

In addition, villages at higher altitudes also face frozen water pipelines because of the snow, which leads to a shortage of drinking water.

There has been a shortage of water in the residential areas of Murree city for about two weeks, while hotels are receiving water uninterrupted, Wajid Abbasi, a local trader, said.When contacted, Murree Assistant Commissioner Zahid Hussain said that the snowfall and the flow of tourists increased the demand for water to 1.2 million gallons daily, but the supply was reduced drastically because of the frozen water channel in Doonga Gali.

Only the Dhar Jawa channel, which was developed in 1992, operates in the winter and caters to just half the water requirement, Mr Hussain, who holds additional charge as the town administrator, added.

He said he had established a complaints cell in his office to provide support not just to tourists but also to local villagers.

Mr Hussain also said that the total road contract allocated to the highway department by the government was 380km including Murree city and main roads entering Murree, but the proposal of clearing local link roads would be discussed with the highway department as well.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2020