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From afforestation to deforestation – 2

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

The first part of this write-up (from afforestation to deforestation) was about the forests in general and did not narrate the more serious and sensitive sides of the issue.

The Chitrali society since very long has used even the very tiny water sources for irrigating their crops and plantations. Planting trees has been the craze of the man of Chitral and like the craze of hunting it has lived to date with the same zeal. Every household plants fruit trees around its living room and enjoys the fruits according to the altitude of the location.

In the southern hence warmer climate, fruit trees are different but at higher altitudes it changes and only apples, apricots, pear, peaches, mulberry etc. are gown and cutting of a fruit tree in those heights, in my poor opinion, is like a murder case, a sin, as trees begin to give fruits after many years in the colder parts of Chitral and it is very cruel to cut a tree fruit from the roots, cutting branches is ok as it refreshes the tree to get more roots of stronger quality.

The Chitrali craze of planting fruit and cultured forests called ‘koach’ is an asset and good side of the culture. It has been noted by foreigners and also by our countrymen and commended. Once in winter a man was cutting the branches of an apricot tree and a neighbor approached to ask as why he was doing so?  The man replied ‘eating fruit is a luxury but burning its branches is my requirement in this severe cold of winter’.

Another crazy Kho was planting apricot saplings on a very large field and a passerby called out ‘what will you eat with the ‘Chamborogh’? – the syrup made from dried apricots as the plot that produced wheat, will now produce apricots, that you will dry up in summer and make Chamborogh in winters but where from will you get the wheat flour to make bread to be eaten with the syrup. The people then and also now grow trees on their plots and now poplar is more expensive as timber than before.

The old man of Chitral used to make small ponds near the meager water sources and made little channel from the source into the pond and when it got filled then he opened the hole at the bottom and the water flowed down to the crop and irrigated one third of the plot. When the pond was empty it was refilled in the same manner and reopened and the next third part was irrigated and then the next.

In this way, a small spring was collected into ponds and opened for irrigation and then the next family used the water in the same manner and the small amount was made to irrigate crops in summers and this is called water rationing system of the old days of Chitral and it is still in practice so the man of Chitral, in the absence of rains in summer, irrigated their crops and trees by this rationing system.

It is a good lesson from the old days and if the local and provincial governments allocate funds for this water management the waste lands of Chitral will give more greenery and desertification could be fought successfully.

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