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January 11, 2019

A road changing life of people, especially women


January 11, 2019

Islamabad : It can be just another road for the world but for the local community, especially woman, the new Azad Pattan-Rawalakot Highway in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) will improve their lives in many ways.

“Before this road was constructed, we were not able to take sick to the hospital and our children used to walk on muddy pathways for hours to reach schools. This road is such a relief for us,” said Gul Fatima, resident of a village adjoining the road.

The new Azad Pattan-Rawalakot Highway links Poonch, Haveli and Kotli and serves as a direct link between 10 districts of the state. After flash floods 2014, the AJK government and Asian Development Bank entered into an agreement for rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads infrastructure.

“The road was not in good condition even before the floods but it was all washed away after 2014 floods. Our life was very difficult after that.

There are no schools and hospitals near our village. We had to go to Rawalakot for basic necessities and it used to take hours to reach there. Now the distance is covered in minutes,” said Gul.

ADB provided $220.04 million under three years Flood Emergency Reconstruction and Resilience Project (FERRP) for the construction of 10 major and 15 districts roads. Government’s share in the project was $24.23 million. So far, 90 per cent work of about 10 major roads comprising 204 km has been completed.

Gul is not only a general beneficiary of the project but is also one of the 31 women wardens hired to protect the seedlings planted to ensure land stabilization around the road. She earns an amount of Rs5,000 per month for taking care of the seedlings planted around her house in the radius of 5 kilometers.

The amount is not big but for Gul, wife of a disabled person, it was good enough to meet basic expenses of her household.

Besides that, she termed it an empowering and life changing experience. “I never thought I would be able to earn for my family like this,” she said adding that more such initiative shall be introduced for women.

While explaining land stabilization method extensively used under this project, Director General of FERRP Project Muhammad Bashir Qurashi said that in this region, once the road is completed, the biggest challenge is to protect it from land sliding.

“In this project, a modern slope stabilisation technique called bio-slop stabilisation was introduced with an amount of Rs526.599 m. Under this initiative, 2.275 seedlings were planted and local community members were hired to protect these seedlings from animals and human consumption,” he said adding that for this purpose, the forest department procured plants from 22 nurseries out of which 15 were owned by the women.

Gender Associate for the project Sumra Aziz said that women were also involved in all consultative meetings for the road project so that their concerns can be addressed throughout the construction process.

“We made 23 Grievance Redresser Committees (GRCs) with 39 per cent women participation. As a result of their feedback, we introduced 67 security features including stair cases to

reach water reservoirs and roads, protected water

reservoirs, short pedestrian tracks etc. which were not even part of the original plan,” she said.

Life has changed for Gul and many other local women who became part of the project but they live with fear that with the end of this project, their source of income will also end. For their relief, Sumra Aziz shared that the AJK government has plans to keep their source of income intact after the project end in December as plants need supervision for at least three years.

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