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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 693, 20 November 2023

Another facet of the ‘Chitral’ region



hitral has an eccentric geographical setting that can be developed into a major global focal point of mining and minerals, trade, and tourism

Shamini Velayutham

On 20 November, according to an editorial by Dr Shahbaz Khan in The Express Tribune titled, “Chitral: the missing essentials” Chitral was once a large district that stretched about 14,850sqkms of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region. The Chitral is said to be a sublime natural beauty that is underdeveloped, less invested, and a slow-functioning political body. According to Khan, it is a place that is overlooked due to the underlying climatic disasters. 
 
The Geographical Setting of Chitral
The population of Chitral is around 0.15 million and it is connected to Pakistan via Lowari Pass. It also shares borders with Dir, Swat, Afghanistan, and Gilgit, which are connected to China. Regarding the landscape, it has altitudes ranging from 1,094 to 7,726 meters. Twenty-four per cent of its area is covered by mountains and glaciers, with only 3 per cent agricultural land. Due to the increasing population, the use of firewood and infrastructural materials has caused detrimental effects on the forest cover. The rigorous usage has led to a depletion estimated to be 3 per cent by 2030.
 
Hurdles faced
Chitral is extremely vulnerable and is constantly exposed to floods, avalanches, and landslides. According to the KP’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), prolonged rains with strong winds and thunderstorms have lashed parts of the province ultimately triggering landslides and destroying infrastructure. The glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) has engendered floods in 2010, 2013, and 2015. As a result, about 69 per cent of the population in 2015 was impacted by the washing away of the power station at Rashun.
 
According to an editorial in Dawn titled, “Vulnerable Chitral,” Chitral lies in a strategically sensitive area, bordering Afghanistan with only the Wakhan Corridor separating it from Tajikistan. China’s Xinjiang region is also in the vicinity. Chitral is also prompted by the cross-border incursion of TTP militants in the borders. Since the district has substantial minority communities, they have been targeted often by TTP and sectarian militants. On the other hand, due to the shortage of funds, the Lowari tunnels were constructed after six decades. The foundation was said to be laid in 1975 and resumed after three decades. With that slow infrastructural project, there is no patronage via corporate power purchase agreement (CPPA) despite the 150 mini hydropower plants which are proven to be a major source of power. The unit rates of supplies remain cheaper compared to the rest of the country.
 
Key areas of focus
According to the editorial, Chitral has an eccentric geographical setting that can be developed into a major global focal point of mining and minerals, trade, and tourism. Tourism is a key sector for Chitral as it has spectacular scenery. The KP’s Ministry of Mining stated that there are ample minerals found through studies conducted in the region. These minerals include Chromite, Granite, Marble, Serpentine, Hematite, Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Garnet, Emerald, Copper, Gold, Iron ore, Lead, antimony, tin, silver, vanadium, arsenic, mercury, tungsten, silver, cadmium, barium, nickel, platinum, and molybdenum. Regardless of the trove of minerals, Lack of funding, lack of a scientific approach and planning, unsophisticated mining methods dominated by blasting and unnecessary waste of 85 per cent, and a scarcity of necessary human capital, particularly experienced workers, significantly hinder the relevant industry. In a similar vein, not only are the crucial technological partners completely absent, but so is the corporate sector, which could contribute to the creation of reliable supply chains focused on value addition.
 
What can be done to restore it?
To redeem Chitral from the delineating, Khan suggested the increased proliferation of NGOs, and the commercial connection between Afghanistan should be actively considered. He also reiterated that there are possibilities of thriving mining and tourism, however, it needs a proper political body. The administration should also focus on increasing the labour force with high technology that has skilled labour. Finally, he stated that there should be perpetual eco-friendly alternatives like hydel and wind-based energy, bio-methane and bio-LNG, LPG Air mix, and briquettes made from dried leaves and coal.

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