NAs geography need be grappled-II, published in The Muslim dated September 10, 1997
The plantation of acacia (Keekar) tree in the Northern Areas long ago, proved to be a very good experiment in the sense that it acclimatizes the area where rain fall has been quite negligible. This plant requires care and watering at the preliminary stage whereafter it can withstand the rigours of the weather – both summer and winter.
The first experiment of the kind seems to have been undertaken long ago along the area available between Sakwar and Jutial in the outskirts of Gilgit town but this exercise, though fruitful, was halted insofar as afforestation on governmental level on a large scale is concerned. For instance, the vast arid land along the flood prone mountains, say of Gilgit. Danyore, Sakwar etc could have easily been turned into such afforested area that could have averted the danger of intermittent flood that has long been endangering the population along the belt.
It is high time that such projects are well-conceived for implementation possibly through nongovernmental organization referred to as above. The AKRSP, since its coming into being in the year 1982, has been striving in the right direction to bring about a prosperous change in the living standards of the impoverished people, who could not have been in a position to obtain resources necessary to allow them to break out of the downward spiral of poverty. The organization gradually embarked upon a ‘radically new approach’ to the problem of rural poverty here by inducting innovative techniques and introducing schemes aimed at economically empowering each village organization.
The launching of this unprecedented campaign in conjunction with the village organizations at grassroots level has so far played crucial economic role by successfully halting the grinding poverty in the rural areas which had earlier exacerbated to an enormous extent. The AKRSP enfolds almost all parts of the Northern Areas in its project area and what signifies its working is the instilling in the mind of the village folk, the sense of awareness conducive to impart modern techniques for improving their living standard and participation in the community uplift programmes quite zealously.
Numerous schemes have already been accomplished by the said organization with the help of the people whom it very successfully activated to work along on the modern scientific lines. This spadework has so far yielded tangible results and a recapitulation thereof will unnecessary lengthen the present subject. In short, the depletion of the forest wealth in the Northern Areas poses great catastrophe as is well evident from the climatic conditions obtaining in here.
The nation as a whole has to remain wary over these developments and effective programming needs to be at once, hammered out for the environmental protection and retrieval wherever necessary. In case if timely efforts are not made at national level to stem the degenerative process that is well imminent, the life of the glaciers here would definitely shorten and that in no way, would be in national interest.
Help of international agencies concerned with global environment may be sought so that their expertise and assistance could greatly be helpful in overcoming the situation and stemming the tide. Nonetheless, some reforms to halt the present messy affairs emanating from whimsical encroachments on land by wayward individuals - other than the specific village folk enjoying proprietary and grazing rights are required to be made to keep the land of the prospective projects intact.
The only deterrent in the flood prone areas is carrying out plantation and afforestation especially of the only viable acacia (Keekar) tree that can stem the tide of the present devastative floods. In addition to the above, the seasonably flowing avalanche water can profitably be tapped through ‘reservoirs’ to be called mini-dams at certain places like Jutial, Sakwar, Minawar, Joteldas and Danyore etc so that the same could be perennially be supplied to the respective areas for irrigation purposes. At places like Jutial nullah and Sakwar, the seasonal water can be preserved in such mini dams not simply for irrigation purposes but that hydroelectric plants too can be commissioned.
There is a vast barren area called Joteldas where there is such a flow of seasonal avalanche water. In case if the same is tapped in the form of a mini dam, the people there could turn this arid land into fertile land. There are other prospects like that tapping the subterranean flow of water for instance, that at Joteldas again. A survey can be carried out to spot the same somewhere near the hem of the mountains so that the same could be lifted up for irrigational purposes.
Giving a boost to agricultural economy here has long remained a mirage in the absence of purposive programming while the exploding population here necessitates that every possible step be taken in regard to bringing more land under acreage.
The nongovernmental organizations here too, are required to work on the pattern of the AKRSP in assisting the government in the uplift of the people instead of simply concentrating on how to preserve a rare species.