Garam Chashma Diary
The increasing number of stray dogs is posing serious threats to humans as well as livestock in Garam Chashma. Ten years have passed when the last anti-stray dog campaign had been launched in the area. The campaign did reduce the number of stray dogs but created another problem at that time because carcasses of dead dogs were left on road sites and on river beds which generated environment crisis and made it difficult for passersby to breath. Even in this age the town, which is billed as ultimate tourist destination, has no dumping site for garbage.
With the establishment of slaughter houses along the river banks, most of their leftovers are thrown into the river and the stray dogs have nothing to feed on. On the other hand marine life including the famous trout fish is on the verge of extinction due to the pollution in the crystal blue river water which was the pride of the valley. Not only the leftovers of slaughter houses rather the entire garbage is dumped into the river making it one of the polluted rivers in town. The stray dogs after been denied this source of food from slaughter houses have gone uphill and ganged up with their cousins-wolves- to play havoc on cattle grazing there. They have become so daring that they attack the cattle in their barns. During the month of June alone dozens of cattle heads were killed by them in day light causing huge loss to the poor farmers of a nearby village.
It is true that part of the blame can be put on members of local communities who have recklessly hunted animals in the wild on which wolves, leopards and bears used to feed. Now these wild animals and birds can hardly be seen and many have become extinct. There is an unverified report from a shepherd who claims to have seen a bear having attacked his cattle in the Barkisun area which used to be a national park during the erstwhile Chitral state but now it has been denuded of wild trees and the famous birds of prey due to reckless cutting of trees and hunting respectively.
If the current rates of deforestation and hunting are not stopped a day might come when the wild beasts may come down to feed on humans, especially children, because cattle farming is increasingly becoming less attractive with ongoing deforestation and over-grazed pastures, which have turned pasture lands into barren ones. With forest covers diminishing fast, rains have become rarer because trees used to generate clouds through water particles produced by transpiration process in plants.
There is urgent need to launch anti-stray dog campaign in the area. This campaign should include sterilization of stray dogs to limit their production. In case killing them is an option then dumping sites may be created before carrying out campaigns to eliminate them through poison or firing. If this problem is left unresolved we may see increasing cases of dog bites. Our hospitals do not have anti-rabies vaccines. As a result the victims will most likely die. One such victim of dog bite died in a nearby village after a gruesome struggle for life. Had there been awareness or availability of vaccines his life could have been saved. These are, however, short term solutions and for a sustainable one coordinated efforts will have to be made in three fronts.
Firstly, cutting of upland forests may be stopped and instead more climate friendly trees should be planted on mountain ranges. Lowland trees have less impact on the incidences of rain which we need badly to replenish our underground water resources and slow down melting of glaciers. In recent years melting glaciers have brought destruction to many villages. Most of the floods originated from the overflowing wells beneath the glaciers. When a big piece of iceberg separates from the glacier during the melting process, it falls into the well below causing over flow and flooding. A few days ago such a flood destroyed properties and crops of people in Birzeen village near the Afghan border. Cattle farming strategy may be revisited to conserve forests and pasture lands. Instead of rearing goats and sheep, people may be given incentives to keep cows, chicken and fish.
By conserving our forests and pastures we can bequeath a livable Chitral to our future generations. Government itself is mainly responsible for our current state of affairs. Instead of fulfilling its responsibility in managing state lands, it allowed cattle and forest mafias to have field day. State and community lands were grabbed by powerful mafias under the very nose of officials which gives the impression that these officials may have connived for personal gains and thus sold out the future of our next generation. Most of the wealth thus stolen has been taken out of Chitral, which still remains a gold mine for corrupt officials and elected representatives. NAB and Anti-corruption Establishment have no time for Chitral thus allowing the corrupt to rule the roost.
To conclude I once again appeal to the right thinking people of Chitral to put their acts together and save Chitral from further degradation. To start with youth should unite to highlight these problems in their areas and pressure the Government to fulfill its responsibilities to restore our eco-system to its pristine purity. Municipal authorities may be compelled to clean up towns of solid as well as liquid waste. All those houses, hotels and other establishments opening their toilets and car wash waste into the rivers may be punished under the River Protection Act.
The deputy commissioner may lead anti-encroachment drive and direct TMA and health officials to take care of stray dogs on sustainable basis. Off and on campaigns are too frustrating. Without proper systems in place nothing will improve permanently. The present incumbent will be remembered in the history of Chitral if he can bring about this change and build on the achievements of his distant predecessor Mr. Waraich who, to the misfortune of Chitralis,died in a plane crush.(May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace). He was one of the few deputy commissioners who loved Chitral and wanted to do good for its people and his legacies can still be seen in parts of Chitral to remind us of his loving memory.