Saturday December 09, 2023

The sad saga of the floods-hit remote Chitral village

November 13, 2023
This representational image shows raising. — Unsplash/File
This representational image shows raising. — Unsplash/File

RESHUN, UPPER CHITRAL: Even the slightest downpour spread unrest in the entire village. Children get scared and women become worried about floods and the miseries that they bring. The grown-ups - both men and women - start running from pillar to post to protect their family members, cattle and household items. Flash floods have become a perpetual threat here, which requires early and concrete measures to avert damage.

The views were shared by Haseena Bibi, a brave woman and an active member of the Community-Based Disaster Risk Management Committee (CBDRMC) in Reshun village of Upper Chitral. The village is confronted with high risks of all kinds of floods. Cloudburst, glacial burst and flash floods caused by heavy rains affect the residents of the riverside village around the year.

A number of government and non-governmental organisations have executed several projects for the protection and well-being of the area and its people, but all those measures seemed to be a mere peanut in the face of the volume of damage caused by floods in the past and the current risks faced by the people. Almost half of the fertile land and many houses of the river-side village have been swept away by the floods. Soil erosion of the area is the most serious concern of the inhabitants of the village located at the heavily glaciated high mountains with glacial streams on its both sides and River Chitral in its front.

A number of schemes have been completed in this village under the UNDP’s GLOF-II project, which is a joint initiative of with the Ministry of Climate Change and supported by the Green Climate Fund, to protect the lives of the people, support and train them about risk management associated with glacial outburst, lowering the damage of disasters and improve their livelihood.

Protection walls have been erected at the Reshun stream to divert the flow of water and save the village from floods. Irrigation channels have been constructed to irrigate the lands and community centre set up in the village under the GLOF-II project.

The people of the village were thankful to GLOF-II for the initiatives. Haseena Bibi told The News that the women of the village were trained about kitchen gardening, first aid and preventive measures under the project. The protection walls, irrigation channel and community centre were other initiatives undertaken for which the people of the village were thankful to the UNDP and GLOF-II team, she said.

Under GLOP-II, 600-feet protection walls, 15 irrigation channels, a CBDRMC Centre and Slope Stabilization Works through plantation on 12 hactres and check dams have been completed, while 10 Early Warning System Equipment - two each Rain Gauge, River Gauge, Lake Gauge, Automatic Weather Station and Warning Post - a safe haven and 1000-feet protection walls were under construction in Reshun Valley, informed an official of GLOF-II.

A lot more has to be done in view of the increasing risks and threats of natural disasters to the area. Haseena Bibi says that rains and floods have always brought misery to them. She said that women and children were the worst affectees of the disasters.

The floods render the people homeless almost every second month. After rains and floods, they are unable to find clean water for drinking and other purposes. Children cannot go to schools. Health and education facilities are already scarce in the area. The lone health facility in the area lacks basic equipment and they have to move their patients to District Headquarters which becomes impossible after floods, which often sweep away roads and bridges. “These floods have made our lives really miserable,” she said.

Soil erosion is a major issue faced by the people of the area. Around 60 acres of the land of the area were eroded and swept away by the mighty river during the 2022 floods, said Mohammad Aslam, a resident of the village.

He stressed that the soil erosion could be prevented by constructing concrete protection walls on the pattern of the ones constructed by Agha Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH). He claimed that the protection walls with J-Wire were not strong enough to withstand the pressure of gushing waters of floods.