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Mehtar’s withdrawal of ban: Duck hunters pose threat to air passengers

CHITRAL, March 3: The construction of artificial ponds and lakes in the riverbed adjacent to Chitral Airport by hunters to lure migratory ducks goes unnoticed which has posed potential threat to the incoming and outgoing flights. 

Last year, on October 19,  Shahzada Fatehul Mulk Ali Nasir, the Mehtar of Chitral and the owner of the land near the airport, had imposed a ban on raising lakes on the ground but it was later withdrawn by him and the hunters continued with their hobby at the expense of flight safety apart from posing threat to the biodiversity.

Talking to this correspondent here on Sunday, Niaz A. Niazi Advodate, the chairman of High Rights Programme Chitral, said bird hunters had raised artificial lakes and ponds in the vast bed of Chitral river near the airport to lure and hunt migratory birds. He said the hunting season commences from December and lasts for three months.

The airport is surrounded by the river on two sides and the birds could prove disastrous for the PIA aircraft. Expressing astonishment, he said in other airports of the country the birds entering the specific radius area of the airport were warded off by shooters employed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but in Chitral the birds were lured to descend to the dangerous zone of the airport. He said the PIA planes fly at very low altitude while landing at the airport over the lakes and a flock of ducks or even a solitary duck descending the lakes at the same time posed threat for the safety of the flight. He said the lakes are at stone’s distance from the runway of the airport but the relevant authorities are yet to take it into account as a hazard to the flight safety.

Due to its peculiar location, the airport is situated at the conflux of the two valleys of Koh and Lotkoh where the migratory birds from the either valley meet for their onward journey towards the plains of the country in the course of their migration from Siberia. It is to be mentioned here that the famous Indus flyway starts from the extreme north of Chitral in Baroghil pass which borders the Central Asian state Tajikistan and the route passes over the narrow valley of Chitral town where the airport is situated.

Mr. Niazi said that the people of Chitral are known for their penchant for hunting and spent thousands of rupees in duck hunting which included raising lakes along the river sides, keeping hounds and sparing a lot of time on daily basis. He said that the situation must be taken into paid heed earnestly before any mishap takes place due to the proximity of the hunting lakes to the facility.–Zahiruddin  

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