• By: Muhammad Faisal

The community of kho (Chitralis) are battling the harsh realities of climate change. The idyllic
landscape belies the challenges faced by its inhabitants, especially when it comes to infrastructure. As floods become more frequent and devastating due to climate patterns, the shortcomings in Chitral’s infrastructure are starkly revealed, emphasising that it is all a game of infrastructure.

The infrastructure of Chitral is a patchwork quilt of unorganised roads, housing, and agricultural lands, making it particularly vulnerable to the ravages of climate change. As temperatures rise and weather patterns become increasingly erratic, the consequences for Chitral are dire. Furthermore, In the remote and rugged terrain of the Chitral District in Pakistan, flash floods are a recurring threat, often testing the resilience of local communities. While the villagers have developed a keen understanding of their environment and can typically navigate the hazards effectively, tragic events like the one on July 14th, 2006, serve as stark reminders of the dangers lurking in their midst.

During that fateful afternoon, a torrential rainstorm unleashed its fury between 4:00 and 5:30 pm, triggering a flash flood that swept through a tunnel construction site with devastating speed. Despite the villagers’ warnings about the inadequacy of the retaining walls to withstand the force of the rainy season, the foreign engineering company pressed on, driven by cost considerations and the allure of an easily accessible location.

The consequences were dire. Equipment worth millions of rupees was lost, and tragically, a foreign engineer lost his life in the deluge. The villagers, who had seen similar tragedies unfold in the past, lamented the disregard for their local knowledge and foresight. They vividly recalled how decades earlier, two lives were claimed by a similar flash flood in the very same location.

The construction of roads, often seen as a symbol of progress and development, can ironically exacerbate the vulnerability of communities to natural disasters. In Lower Chitral, the village of Shainigar has experienced firsthand the consequences of altering the natural landscape for road construction. The once deep channel of the river bed has been filled to make way for a cross-way, disrupting the natural flow of the stream and amplifying the impacts of flooding events.

In the pursuit of development, it is imperative to strike a balance between progress and preservation, ensuring that infrastructure projects do not inadvertently increase the risk to local populations. The lessons learned from tragedies like the one in Chitral underscore the importance of community engagement, local knowledge integration, and proactive risk management in sustainable development initiatives, particularly in vulnerable mountainous regions where the stakes are highest.
Similarly, recent floods in Drosh kaldoom river is a perfect example of unorganized engineering, they have created a road in the pathway of river Kaldoom. It is a shame that government don’t take full advantage of local knowledge and keep making the same mistake over and over again.

Research conducted by Salma Khalid and her team sheds light on the hydro-meteorological characteristics of the Chitral River basin, a vital lifeline for the region. Situated at the peak of the Hindukush range, this basin is heavily impacted by changes in temperature, which in turn affect the snow and glacial melt feeding into the river.
The study reveals a significant correlation between mean maximum temperature and the discharge rate of the Chitral River. As temperatures increase, so too does the rate of snow and glacial melt, leading to fluctuations in river discharge throughout the year. During the monsoon period, the discharge rate often surpasses the mean, posing a threat of flooding to the region.

One of the most alarming findings is the accelerated melting of glaciers, a direct consequence of rising temperatures. Glaciers, once steadfast in their presence, now vanish prematurely in early summer, reducing their residency period and exacerbating water yield and river discharge rates.

The tragedies and challenges faced by Chitral due to climate change-induced floods underscore the critical role of infrastructure and local knowledge integration in mitigating disaster risks. The government must recognize and harness the invaluable insights and experiences of the local community in flood-prone areas like Chitral. By actively involving the locals in infrastructure planning and construction, the government can leverage their deep understanding of the terrain and weather patterns to build more resilient and effective flood mitigation measures.

Moreover, alongside infrastructure improvements, there is a pressing need for the re-creation and beautification of the Chitral region. Initiatives focused on restoring natural ecosystems, enhancing green spaces, and promoting sustainable tourism can not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of Chitral but also contribute to its resilience against climate change impacts.Additionally, organising seminars and workshops on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies can provide a platform for dialogue and collaboration among government agencies, local communities, and other stakeholders.

These events can facilitate knowledge exchange, raise awareness about the urgency of addressing climate change, and foster partnerships for implementing effective solutions in Chitral and similar vulnerable regions.By prioritising the integration of local knowledge, investing in infrastructure resilience, and promoting environmental sustainability, the government can play a pivotal role in safeguarding Chitral against the escalating threats of climate change floods while fostering its long-term prosperity and resilience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »