A glimmer of hope for Atahk water project

A glimmer of hope for Atahk water project

Adnan Zainul Abideen

The news about the provision of funds by the KP government from the Asian Development Bank for the construction of the much-awaited Atahk Water Channel in Mulkhow is not less than a boon for the residents of Mulkhow and Torkhow tehsil.

It has once again infused in them a glimmer of hope that this project would one day be accomplished to solve the chronic problem of water scarcity for irrigating 25,000 hectares of land.

The acute shortage of water has remained one of the biggest issues in most of the areas of Mulkhow and Torkhow since long. The absence of glaciers or any other viable and sustainable source of water has left the area at the mercy of rain and snowfall during the winter season, to ensure the availability of water though out the year.

The more rain and snowfall the better is the prospect of water availability in the particular year and vice versa. Thus, the uncertainty forces the dwellers to keep major chunk of their cultivable land either barren or compel them to limit their farming. Which otherwise could be used to grow grain and other cash crops and fruits, and other different plants for timber and to secure burning wood, had the supply of water been sustainable.

This has a direct bearing on the socioeconomic conditions of the residents of the area. The land, roughly estimated to be around 25,000 hectares, is fertile and climatic conditions are also suitable to grow cash crops such as grain, maize or rice in large scale. However, currently people are compelled to do subsistence farming due to the shortage of water.

This significantly impacts their income. Moreover, different kind of fruits, but not limited to grape, apple, pear, apricot, etc. are profusely produced in the area. Yet, the absence of constant supply of water has constricted this possibility as well, thus by depriving the landholders from opportunities of earning income. Besides, major portion of the landscape is mountainous, where different plants can be grown and forestation can be promoted, which will have financial as well as ecological impact.

In addition, Kaghlasht (Qaqlasht) plateau with an estimated area of 71,000 kanals can be made habitable and significant income can be earned. Furthermore, the proposed project is reported to be comprised of tunnels and Powerhouses, which may add additional power to the national grid.

However, Atahk water channel, the origin of which start from the Mulkhow river in Terich Aan is considered to be one of the main sources, which if constructed may have the potential to solve the perennial problem of water scarcity in the area.

The history of the proposed water channel dates back to 1980s, when notables of the area rallied behind the then member of the district council, Mr. Fazal Amin (L) of Mulkhow to address the issue and came up with the idea of construction of the proposed water channel.

The idea got traction and the people under his leadership initiated the work on the planned project on self-help basis. However due to multiple reasons – the large scale of work and absence of proper funds being the major hurdles – the project could not come to fruition. Ironically, the mission could not be accomplished at that time, but the floater of the idea and their struggle – majority of them passed away and may their soul rest in eternal peace – would always be kept in high esteem.

Yet the idea stayed afresh in the minds and hearts of the people, despite the passage of long time, since it has had been considered the only solution that could change their fate and address the perennial issue.

During the year 1993-1996, my father, the then MPA of Chitral, Mr. Zain Ul Abidin (L) took up the issue and allocated funds to carry out feasibility study of the project. The study could be conducted, but the removal of the government once again brushed it under the carpet. However, the mission continued.

The people of the area under the guidance of local leaders from Kosht to Kushum and beyond kept on struggling hard to realize the dream. The severity of the struggle can be gauged from the fact that, the people protested many times and were eventually compelled to go for a hunger strike along with their female household members, but to no avail.

The successive governments showed indifference towards the plight of the people. And every time the dilly dallying tactics were employed by the government with the premise that the project was not feasible and huge funds were required.

Eventually, the news of current provincial government led by PTI with the personal support of Wazir Zada, Special Assistant to the CM KP, taking up the issue and seeking ADP assistance to finance the proposed project is a good omen, which if materialized would go a long way in addressing the festering issue. It indeed would be a game changer and will transform the lives of the inhabitants of Mulkhow.

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