Fire rages on: an eyewitness account to destruction in Kalash valley

KALASH VALLEY, July 17: The fire which was erupted on 8 July is still continued today. People of the valley are disappointed as no one is willing to help these people to extinguish fire in the forest. DCO Chitral responding to the grievance of the people sent some forces from border police. 

Mr. Javeed Subidar headed the team and visited the locations. During an interview with this reporter he said that ‘’the fire caused due to labors say locals but I fear that some chemicals had used in the forest to erupt fire ’’ when I asked others to know their views about the fire which brought trillions lost to economy of the valleys and national natural wealth.

Everyone on the spot was confused how it possible that fire could be erupted in different places at a time. To know further the causes of fire I interview Abdurahim a local forest guard at Bitiligiri in Acuagha he told that ‘’ I have never seen such happened although I have decade of experience working in Acuagha valley and adjoining areas’’ he further added that there is possibilities of chemical used to erupt fire in the forest, which was the only beautiful and plenty of precious deodar/cedar, oaks, pine nut and plus more trees in the region which is now all damaged’’. To witness the situation Luke Rehmat planned to go to high pasture and asked young boys in the valleys to call him at 4 AM on 14 July so he could accompany the volunteers to work in the forest to diminish further damaging of forest. On next morning five young boys come and knocked my door then we leave for Acuagha valley after three consecutive years without trekking on the mountains of a beautiful valley which is not only famous because of its forest, but there are some famous spring water such Sudouk (this a spring water which is used for different treatment and people from down countries are compel to come for treatment along their patients).

Early in the morning we left for Acuagha, were arrived at Uchara (A water fall located in Batirk forest), it was really difficult for me to walk with shepherds who are champions of trekking but I was the only person who cannot walk as they others did during the visit. Slowly and gradually we arrived at Donsoon pass indeed a beautiful and famous location defiantly the trekking tourists who have visited this place would be missing the pass. But I discovered a cave due to the shepherd which I wasn’t seen in my life although I was frequently visiting the valley in past. We continue our journey towards the locations where fire was erupted and some other friends also joined our small group and we moved forward. As the journey was hard due to emergency situation in the forest and we were thought to take some drinking water and as well as water to extinguish fire wherever possible. One of our friend told that he has collected some empty bottles of nestle etc, and they went to fill out spring water from a short distance.

When we reached Teki shepherd house, here again some people joined our group and we come to know of our friends who were in the forest last night and had no food to eat meanwhile a friend to me that Mera Jan and Abdul Haddi is coming from Acuagha center, they have brought some rice for the volunteers who are working in the forest, they had play a vital role to control on fire to further spread in the forest.

Among these young people Dr. Wali Khan, Shakil Ahmad, Zafar Ahmad and few others. We met these guys and exchanged views on the forest fire. Everyone was shocked and confused. Then few of our friends joined these guys and three of us continued our journey to work and assist other friends. On the way we saw some fire and tried to extinguish. We were towards Bitigiliri and saw a big fire and rushed to the area when we reached on the spot we saw three of our villagers were present on the location who where in our group but they were went there 15 minutes before we arrived the place.

We saw some unforgettable moments during our rescue efforts we say an old tree which was 50 meters away from the fire location and started smoke on the top of the tree which made every one confused and surprised how is it possible then everyone some 20 people begin to questioning about the fire erupted and possibilities of chemical used. After doing hard work in Bitiligeri we move downward to discover more locations, the forest which was famous due to deodar/cedar trees was now looking like snow covered land everywhere only died trees and ashes.

It was like hell which was heaven before the fire erupted says shepherd Sher Shaheen. Marking of trees in forest for legal destruction of the forest but the corrupt leaders have told the contactor to cut young tress from easily accessible areas for the sake commission, above trees are not cutted yet and there are number trees one can witness in the forest 1 A quick summary of lost and damages: According to our and border police assessment the number of tree and fire woods plus other wild dry fruits damaged. Deodar/Cedar 7 million trees burnt to ashes.

Oak trees 0.5 million trees burnt to ashes Pine Net 1 million trees burnt to ashes Others 2 million trees burnt to ashes Fire woods which are burnt ashes would cost 60 million and pine net, not trees only fruit would cost 20 million. The total lost would be in trillions. According reliable sources 6 compoart (No idea how to pronounce in forest terms, a compart, probably it’s a division forest in subgroups) out of 18 are burnt to ashes which are a huge quantity of forest according to forest terms. Few pine net trees survived but partial damaged 1 People of the concern valley are appealed for high level enquiry into this matter; otherwise the beautiful valleys of Kalash may not turn in to bare mountains without forest if kind attention did not take.

People of the affected valley are in high demand to asked forest department to take emergency step to stop permits issuing and issued one, also demanding to withdraw marking immediately from Acuagha valley. Through reliable source we come to know that if permits, marking etc did not stop then worst consequence may be happen. Till filing this report latest news come that fire is still there although diminished in some places. (Luke Rehmat (Founder & CEO Kalash People’s Development Network and Social Activist from Kalash valleys).  

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