Migration dramatically changes life for Upper Chitral villagers

PESHAWAR - In the foothills of one of the summits of the Hindukush mountainous region in Upper Chitral, villagers of Sonoghoor have frequently seen the inclemency of glacial lakes outburst flood (GLOF) that cause much damage to life and property from time to time in certain areas.

However, the idea of settling the villagers in Parwak and Dumadumi areas saved the population of Sonoghoor village as the mentioned areas are comparatively safer from impending danger of glacial lakes outburst flood. Discussing how the settlement became possible, former councillors of Parwak village Eid Ali and Aisar Wali Khan said that establishment of a new village in Parwak in 1980s in the vast and pieces of arid land situated opposite to Sonoghoor area totally relieved hundreds of families from the recurring disasters of floods every summer. They recalled that a glacial lake outburst flood in the year 2006 washed away two-thirds of the village although the villagers saved their lives and had already left the area before the calamity struck their area.

“It would have been really a doomsday for about one thousand people living in the area when it was hit by the glacial lake outburst flood on that terrible evening of 2016,” said Eid Ali, adding that they were saved only due to their migration to the new village. They said that the settlement of the new village became possible in 1984 when Aga Khan Rural Support Program approved a siphon irrigation project, which rendered about 1,200 acres of land in Parwak while another village was also settled in Dumadumi. They said that the twin villages of Parwak and Dumadumi have not only been saved from the ever impending vulnerability to the natural hazard in the form of GLOF and torrential floods but it has also moulded their economic life as well thereby scaling them up socially.

Battling climate change

While villagers in Hindukush mountainous region moved from a GLOF-prone area to arid lands, Siphon Irrigation Project turned the new villages green and fertile now producing various fruits and vegetables

The elders said that due to increase in population, the land holding of people in Sonoghoor and Awi villages had decreased to abysmally low, which perpetuated poverty and indigence and it was solved when the new village was established with hundreds of acres of land available there.  “The economic condition of the villagers has improved incredibly due to the large land holding and the abundance of irrigation water to grow cereal crops and vegetables on commercial scale apart from raising fruit orchards while the availability of fodder has led to multiplication of livestock,” stated another local resident while recalling how life has changed for them after their migration to Parwak.

He added that the village has gained eminence for producing apple, peach, apricot and a number of vegetables on commercial scale while fodder for animals is also available there for sales, which brought a great dividend to the farmers supplementing their income. The twin villages of Parwak and Dumadumi are also free from any type of natural hazard as the pastures and hills flanking them are covered by Sanobar trees and other shrubs in rich density.