Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Students of Centennial Model School Go on Exposure to Booni/Qaqlasht Festival 2011

An exposure visit for the students of Centennail Model School Chitral was organised through the support of Tourism Corporation Khyber Pukhtunkhwa under its project titled 'Revival of Indigenous Cultural Heritage (RICH). As many as 36 students were taken on one day trip to participate in the Qaqlasht Festival 2011.

The purpose of the exposure visit was to introduce extracurricular initiatives at school level so that maximum learning opportunities could be afforded to young students who have to shoulder the responsibilities in future.

Qaqlasht Festival 2011 Celebrated

Jashan-e-Qaqlasht 2011(Qaqlasht Festival) was organised from April 14 to 18 this year. The mega event of the people of northern Chitral attracted a great many local, national and international toursits and media personnel. The event was somehow marred by intermitent rain. But the overall weather condition was ideal in uper Chitral and the festival venue.

The purpose of the festival is to revive the old-age cultural heritage of the people of Chitral.

A range of traditional sporst such as free style polo, tug of war, bodi dik, falconry in addition to a series of new games that were introduced during the festival.

The festival was sponsored by Tourism Corporation Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (TCPK) to be implemented by Chitral Association for Mountain Area Tourism)

Please visit the following website link for details:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Day for Cuisine and Culture Show on Nauroz Day

The Tourism Corporation Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa(TCKP) and Chitral Association for Mountain Area Tourism (CAMAT) joined hands to celebrate Navrouz and, with it, to honour the beauty of Chitrali culture and cuisine.

A festival of indigenous cuisine and local music was set up here in Chitral town with a purpose to market the local culture through the tourism industry. Shoshp,Chhira Shapik,Ghara,Shoshpalaki,Chamborogh,Sanabachi,Mol and Lajeik were showcased.

Cooking and food generally associated with women in the entire region and linking this sort of tradition with mainstream economic activity would primarily translate into empowering women of Chitral economically. This will also help to aggrandise the interest of the women in the Home Economics.

On the other hand, it is a general observation that the mountains areas of Pakistan are going through identify crises as globalization; modern communications and economic mobility have brought in external cultural trends that easily can wash out the indigenous originality. Lack of awareness has taken the youth away from their identity. Most of the people of Chitral have forgotten the names and tastes of the traditional foods. The purpose of the activity on Navrouz was to catch up that deficit.

Discussions were made among the participants and visitors about how originality, hospitality and quality service can be patched up with Chitral tourism. Suggestions were made that formal training about cooking and smart service skills should be initiated. Arrangements were made by CAMAT with the help of volunteer work by the Girls Guides of Dolomoch, Chitral town.

Evening was festive too as Music and Cultural dances were arranged. A large number of people participated and enjoyed the evening. Folk singers; folk dancers, instrumentalists filled the air with tunes and melodies.

Folk dancers whirled with some forgotten dances like Anaphari, Tatali,Wawali,Chon Rigishi and Barwazi. The music of pasture flutists also featured in the musical show. The instrument is played by shepherds while herding the cattle in the summer pastures. Its plaintive notes echo in the rocks and makes melancholic resonance that enthral the listeners.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Climate Day Celebrated in Booni, Chitral

10/10/10 International Day of Climate Change was celebrated in Booni, Chitral, Pakistan, through the facilitation of Destination Management Organization (DMO) Chitral and The theme of the day was 'Breaking of Booni Glacier, Its Relation to Climate Change'. As many as 500 people from different walks of life participated.

The day has had significance for the people of Booni as they have recently witnessed a flood destroying their valuable property and causing them major health problems, psychological twists and infrastructure disruption.

The objective was to join the worldwide communities in highlighting climate problems—breaking of glacier, untimely melting of snow, frequent floods and unpredictable climate conditions—in the Hindu Kush Mountains.

To begin with, speeches highlighting the prospects of climate change in the Hindu Kush Mountains were delivered. Mr Sadruddin, the principal of Orion School of Learning (OSL) impressed upon the participants to save the Booni village by protecting natural environment. This challenge could be successfully tackled by offering environmental-friendly education/values to children within the family right from their childhood. In turn, this will make the task easier for teachers, once they are admitted to schools. He also said that ecology/ natural biodiversity had to be included into the curriculum of government/ private schools as a compulsory subject from class 1st. Meanwhile; teachers need to be imparted skill enhancement training regarding natural environment.

Mr Shams Uddin, the Coordinator of DMO Chitral and the key organizer of the event, upheld that nature has the characteristics quite like those of a loving mother. Nonetheless, the difference is that ‘mother’ along with her children is dependant on ‘mother nature’ for healthy life. Nature feeds us with a variety of cereals, fruits and vegetable. It provides us with oxygen and clean water to mention a few. Bearing this in mind, we have to take great care of nature, the manifestation of which could be the adoption of environmental-friendly manners and values by the entire society.

Mr Uddin maintained that the natural beauty of Chitral is an asset, which we can market to attract more tourists. Unfortunately, climate change/ global warming is going to erode the base natural resources and environment. From tourism standpoint, climate change that destroy natural environment—a valuable tourism product— is even a greater loss.

Advocate Amir Akber Khan, himself a social worker, said that we did not have to loose time waiting for another catastrophe to happen. We have to stand united to tackle the future floods in the following ways. First, proper canalization of the stream bed is greatly important. Second, 'as charity begins at home’, there has to be hectic and coordinated fund raising campaign in the Booni village. “In order to save the village from further destruction, we have to contribute a sizable amount sell out livestock. With this money we can canalize the stream bed and construct protective walls along the stream line”, he said. Meanwhile, grazing on the Booni Gol rangeland needs to be restricted for ever. Without dealing the problem on self-help basis, we should not expect government and NGOs to play role in this regard.

He said that people had witnessed something unforgettable being unfolded that was the breaking of the Booni glacier, which he termed as an ‘eye-opener’ for the local communities.
The students arranged theatre centering on the Booni flood and its aftermath. The play they enacted depicted social, political and cultural complexities in times of crisis and highlighted the helpfulness of modern technology. For instance, mobile phone was used as an instrument of Early Warning System (EWS) by volunteers high up in the Booni stream. Similarly, they played of individuals who remained oblivious towards natural hazards as they basically lacked the inbuilt knowledge to assess the enormity of a natural disaster. Likewise lack of medical care, non-existence of portable water that led to widespread water-born diseases was effectively highlighted. Further, women’s drudgery of fetching water from long distance for cattle and household use constituted an interesting component of the play. The participants appreciated the efficiency of the students in preparing and executing the play.

The students sang songs of nature and the serene beauty of the Chitral valley, its lakes, snow-capped peaks, forest, alpine meadows, flowers, medicinal herbs, fruits and crops, all of which sustain on a suitable natural climate. The singers mourned the missing of the valuable bird species from the ecological chain. Such birds used to live when most of the participants were young people. It was indicated that climate change has been responsible for the migration/ extinction of the bird species.

‘Don’t turn my heaven into hell’ was the theme of poetic session. The student poets wisely couched the issues of climate change into poetic language. They appealed to the sentiments of the audience to keep the natural environment from being degraded into a sort of ‘hell’ by becoming unbearably hot. Further, funny anecdotes related to nature were shared with the participants. Pieces of engaging wits were skillfully blended into making the cause of climate change more motivating. It must be noted that Khowar poetic sessions have been used as an effective tool of campaign to critically analysis the local politics, poverty, corruption and forced marriage and other social issues.

A placard bearing walk of parents and students through the Booni village was taken out from OSL, which ended as it reached near the Booni Market. The purpose of the walk was to spread the message of International Day of Climate Change amongst the villagers.
The participants of IDCC in Booni, Chitral, northern Pakistan, put forward the following recommendations:

• That there has to be an effective fund raising campaign by the local communities to save Booni from the catastrophe of natural calamities in future. To this end, every household has to contribute a sizeable amount even if they have to sell out their livestock.

• The environmental-unfriendly practice of irrational grazing of Booni Gol rangeland by the nomads with as many as 6000 goats and sheep has to be halted forthwith.

• Standard research work by reputed glaciologists and environment scientists is what the participants recommended to properly evaluate, understand and establish authentic baseline data on the deteriorating condition of natural environment in the mountains of Chitral.

• In order to protect Booni from the spillover of mud-flood in future, check dams need to be constructed in the side valleys high up in the Booni Gol rangeland.

• Protective walls have to be constructed at different points where the flood has already broken into villages. However, such protective walls have to be technically sound with their foundation deep into the ground.

• Deforestation of juniper, birch and shrubs in the Booni Gol rangeland has to be immediately stopped and plantation on a wide scale has to be undertaken by communities/ school students.

• The bed of the Booni stream needs to be canalized to provide permanent course for the water. This way materials that the flood deposited all along the stream bed, could be washed into the Mastuj River.

• There have to be awareness raising seminars, workshops and conferences on climate change and its impacts on the mountainous communities of Chitral. • Last but not the least; the participants thanked the organizers of International Day of Climate Change, which the local community so urgently needed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Booni—the Day the Glacier Broke

Booni is a village 80 kilometers to the north of Chitral town. Just like the rest of the villages in the Hindu Kush region, Booni is also a fan-shaped landmass formed by glacial deposit at the mouth of what is called ‘Booni Gol’ or the stream of Booni, which cultivates the tracts of crops, vegetable, fruit bearing trees of apple, pear and grape and so on.

On July 26, 2010 in the afternoon, a huge flash flood that originated from Booni zom glacier, smashed road networks, telephone and water supply lines depriving the local communities of the basic life amenities. The jeep-able road that once connected Central Booni to Molgram in the south vanished in a flash and the blacktopped road cleanly swept. The proportion of the flood was so immense that the wide span of the stream course could hardly accommodate it. Consequently, the overflow entered the settlements destroying houses, orchards, and washing everything on its way including a Jamat Khana. The irrigation channels branching off the main stream have been badly disrupted. This has left standing crops of rice, maize, and fruit bearing trees, orchards, and kitchen garden without water for more than a week, the cost of which for the locals, who largely depend on subsistent agriculture for their livelihood, could be immeasurable.

The topography of the post-flood Booni Gol presents an unattractive and unacceptable look. The green patches of crops/grasslands and the leafy overhanging trees that once decorated the line of the stream could be seen uprooted. This also means the life-time fantasies of the locals woven into the serene beauty of the stream have also been washed away by the worst natural calamity of our time. You will find the grief-stricken villagers standing at the edge and fearfully gazing into the abyss of the flood bed pondering over the factors that provoked the disaster.

It would be pertinent to mention that global warming-related flash flood have become a commonplace in the Hindu Kush mountains. Four years ago, the village of Sonoghor was totally destroyed whereas Brep—another village in the north—was partially plastered. Still in another instance, forty people in the Washeech village of Torkhow valley were died when an unusual snow avalanche buried them in a harsh winter of early February.

The socio-psychological trauma of the flood for the local communities has been enormous. The entire population was panic-stricken when they knew about the natural disaster being unleashed. Obviously, the trouble of those living near the epicenter of the flood was pathetic. Ladies ran amok with their children pressed under their arms. Young daughters just engaged in collecting household utensils and tending livestock into safe places. Male family members started running with valuables whatever their hands could lay on in the premises of the household. In no time, then, a large number of displaced people reached at Gahli playground, embarrassed and grief-stricken. They preferred to stay under the open sky in a torrential rain for the sake of their life. Many of them took refuge with relatives and family members in the nearby villages.

The next morning tent village for the affectees was established at Gahli stadium across the river right in front of the village. Some people still prefer to have night stay in these tents to avoid the risk of being washed along the flood. To add salt to injury, the community was advised to remain cautious and alert after the aerial survey of the hazard-prone glacier by a team of experts.
In the meantime, the police and volunteers from the local community have been inducted in the upper region with a mission to send early information in case of another bout of flood, which is perceived to have been lurking somewhere in the glacier.

Till now no aid package has been arranged by government and non-governmental organizations. There is wide spread possibilities of cholera, typhoid and malaria and other water-born diseases. The road links leading to the Chitral district and Booni have been cut-off, which means there is rampant price-hiking for the locals in the month of Ramadan.

Shams Uddin,
Booni, Chitral, Pakistan
Mobile: +92 302 5975059

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Broghil Festival 2010

The three-day Broghil festival 2010 is set to be organized from July 28 to 30, 2010 at Teri Dast, the scenic venue near the Chiantar glacier in the Eastern Pamir region. The objective of the event is to create income earning opportunities for the Wakhi communities by attracting tourists in addition to protect the indigenous culture of the unique community along Wakhan Corridor.

The festival will be categorized in to two broader segments i.e. indigenous sporting events and traditional Wakhi music. The sporting events will be:
1. Wakhi free style polo
2. Central Asian buzkashi on sturdy Badakhshi ponies
3. Horse race
4. Yak polo
5. Yak race
6. Tug of war
7. Mountain marathon

The cultural events including:
1. Traditional Wakhi folksongs such as ‘bilbilik’ etc
2. Wakhi folkdances
3. Central Asian violin [ghirzhak]
4. Playing ‘gharba’ with religious songs
5. Food festival
6. Exhibition of Wakhi handicrafts

Broghil is recognized for the colorful culture of the Wakhi community in addition to enormous trekking/ photographic opportunities and horseback/ yak riding.

Shams Uddin,
CAMAT Chitral

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paragliding as Tourism Product in Northern Pakistan

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return”, said Leonardo da Vinci.

Flying like birds has always been the earnest desire of men. The launching of HIKAP [Hindu Kush Association for Paragliding]—the first registered Civil Society Organization with a mission to promote paragliding in northern Pakistan—on December 6, 2009, is a big leap forward towards the realization of this unusual dream of the Chitrali youngsters.

The association has opened categories of professional and honorary membership with fee of Rs 1000/- for professional members. The beginners have to pay Rs 2000/- entry fee to learn the sport.

To begin with, Miftahuddin, ACO Chitral administered oath to the new office bearers of the association and wished the sport could be instrumental in the wellbeing of the entire region by highlighting it into an ideal destination and attracting more national and international paragliders on equal footing to Phokran in Nepal.

The speakers underlined the significance of paragliding as an innovative technology for tourism growth in future and ranked it as a budding product after the Kalash communities with mountaineering and free style polo to be ranked at third and fourth respectively.

Meanwhile the forum appreciated the step of the paragliders who, at first hand, learnt the sport without institutional supervision and now working assiduously to impart the gliding skills to other young people. The total number of senior pilots and new entrants is ten at present.
Given the perfect launching points and open landing spots coupled with clear blue sky, lofty snow-clad peaks and the buoyancy of the everlasting thermals keeping a pilot afloat for nine hours at times, Chitral could be the hub of both national and international paragliders.

Mr Saifullah Jan, himself a pilot and the newly elected president of the association shared his story of how he learnt to fly. He lamented the fact that in the beginning people discouraged him that the sport was life threatening and a difficult one. Despite all difficulties, he did not surrender. He saved some money, proceeded to Islamabad for some training and learnt it. Now he is recognized as a good trainer also.

“I can not find words to express the thrill that come when you fly through the air. It is a unique and unusual experience only to be appreciated by those who fly”, he said. He believes the sport is safe and easy for energetic youngsters to learn. “I was motivated for the first time when I saw a foreign paraglider who landed in Chitral polo ground twenty-three years ago. “On the inauguration of Jashan-e-Chitral 2004, five years ago, when I landed in the same polo ground for the first time, the crowd believed I was a foreigner. But when I took off my helmet, they were awe-struck to see a Chitrali paraglider”, said Mr Saifullah Jan. He thanked Shahzada Capt Siraj Ulmulk for the moral and technical support in the course of learning the sport.

We can not arrange international cricket or soccer events in Chitral given the deficiency in infrastructure and the huge budget that it involves, but we can easily organize an exceptional international paragliding contest as we don’t need any preparation or ground infrastructure for the sport. So why should we not use our favorable natural topography for promoting the sport and earn handsome income?

The participants termed the sport as an innovative sector of community development necessary to diversify people’s livelihood opportunities the way it has done in other parts of the world. They thanked the pilots to take adventurous initiatives to promote paragliding in region.

In his concluding speech, Mr Sartaj Ahmed Khan, Tehsil Nazim Chitral, appreciated the launching of HIKAP as a good omen for the future development of paragliding in Chitral and considered it not only an innotative area of entertainment but also a new sector of tourism promotion in future. He pledged his committed support from the Tehsil administration for the cause.