Culture is an integral part of human life. In the wake of globalization and imperialism almost all the cultures, particularly the indigenous cultures, are in danger of extinction.
Pakistan is a mix of various cultures and nationalities. Denial of this fact has so far inflicted Pakistan with many issues of identity and extremism.
In Pakistan the smaller and lesser discovered cultures along with the languages are fast vanishing consequently leaving the national in suspension and abeyance. This has pushed the society towards alien cultures which are apparently antagonist but in operation have the same impacts on society and human life.
In order to reclaim the pluralistic social background of our sub-continental past there is an intense need to revive and promote the indigenous culture that was not only inclusive but humane as well.
If seen closely and emphatically the lesser known cultural entities in Pakistan are threatened of death if left unchecked.
Realizing this need IBT has launched the initiative to document, preserve, promote and revive the indigenous cultures of North Pakistani communities.
The initiative is named ‘Simam’—a Torwali word meaning grandeur, arrangement and dignity. Under it folk music, poetry, tales, oral tradition, traditional games, dresses, daily use items and historical legends are documented and promoted.
Daral Khawar power house: Bahrain residents demand a more environment-friendly design of the project
As the Bahrain community expressed reservations over the Daral Khawar Power Project, a meeting was called by the district coordination officer (DCO) to address their concerns at his office on Monday.
The participants of the meeting have called for another survey of the controversial project.
The participants of the meeting proposed the formation of a Grievances Redress Committee to tackle the issue in an organised way. “I have directed all the sub-divisional magistrates to consult with the communities and try to resolve their problems,” said DCO Kamran Rehman.
Zubair Torwali, a social activist, representing the community said that meetings with stakeholders were nothing new but the Sarhad Hydel Development Organisation (SHYDO) remained indifferent to their issues. “They did not consult anyone from the community when the project survey was being conducted. There are flaws in the proposed project due to the bureaucratic attitude of the organisation.”
He spelled out the adverse impact, which the project would have on irrigation channels and in turn on agriculture, the main source of income for people in the area. “Most of the locals depend on Daral River for potable water, which the present project design would deprive them of,” he said. It will also stop more than 10 already running micro-hydel power stations, he added.
Furthermore, he said the project would affect the environment, as it entails chopping down 40,000 trees for the construction of the road leading to the project. It would also adversely impact tourism, which is a major contributor to Bahrain’s economy. Other negative fallouts include higher temperatures in summer and threatening various species of fish because of the reduced water flow. Dozens of water mills will also come to a halt.
“The current design of the project was patented for the Asian Development Bank, but it withdrew the project from its portfolio last August. This means, the bank took the reservations of the affected community into account.” However, SHYDO is still following the design that its former donor had rejected, he added.
Based on the flaws and adverse impact of the project, people from Bahrain and Daral valley have demanded a redesign of the project which would not divert the river water. The community is aware of the energy crisis and does not oppose development, but it has to be environment -friendly.
SHYDO project manager presented data on water flow throughout the year. Total flow of water in Daral Khwar in summer is 817 cusecs, whereas the project would require 529.5 cusecs, leaving 300 cusecs in the river. In winter, the total flow of water in the river is 30 cusecs, whereas the project would require 24 cusecs. Only six cusecs of water would be insufficient to meet the needs of the community.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) Jafar Shah said he was aware of the energy crisis but he was equally concerned about the project’s effect on tourism and the environment, particularly forests. For this reason, he could not approve the project without the consent of the local people, while addressing the meeting.
The MPA suggested that various approaches must be explored to reach a proper consensus. He proposed that a committee should be formed to address the issue with the K-P chief minister, chairman of SHYDO’s board of directors.
Endorsing, Torwali’s idea of involving an independent party, Shah said that experts should be asked whether a redesign of the project is possible .
He elaborated that the committee would comprise community members, SHYDO officials, the DCO and him. He said the committee would take up the issue with the CM.
After constitution of the Grievances Redress Committee, it was recommended that a new survey of the proposed road should be conducted.
Ten per cent royalty and five megawatts of electricity from the project will be reserved for the community. He gave the assurance that the possibility of redesigning the project would be seriously considered.
It was decided that Shah would convey the recommendations to the chief minister directly while the DCO would send them through official channels.
Members of the committee will attend the next coordination meeting of the board.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.
Swat residents move Peshawar High Court against hydropower project
PESHAWAR: Residents of Swat’s Bahrain sub-district have moved the Peshawar High Court against the construction of a hydropower project which they say could adversely affect the area’s environment.
“The Daral Khawr Hydropower Project is a run-of-the-river dam with an estimated capacity of 36 megawatts,” said Zubair Torwali, executive director of a local organisation called Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqqi, at a joint press conference with community counsel Ahmed Rafay Alam at the Peshawar Press Club on Tuesday.
Torwali said that the project, first conceived in 1998 by the Sarhad Hydel Development Organisation (SHYDO), will use the flow of Daral River, which is also used by residents of Bahrain Town for agricultural, drinking and other domestic purposes. “The hotel industry of Bahrain is also located along this river.”
“The project envisages diversion of this river through a six-kilometre-long tunnel upstream of Bahrain for hydel power generation,” he said.
Bahrain Town, which is located at the meeting point of Daral Khawar and Swat River, is said to have a population of around 30,000 people.
He said that initially the Asian Development Bank was funding the project but pulled out of it once the local community approached them with their reservations.
Torwali was of the view that construction of an access road to the surge tank site along Daral Valley will require acquisition of land and felling of trees and forest cover, resulting in threats of landsliding and flooding due to loss of watershed.
“We do not want that this project be shelved as we are aware of the energy crisis faced by the nation. But our concerns should be addressed and the project should be redesigned,” he said.
He blamed authorities in the SHYDO for keeping the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister in the dark about people’s reservations on the project and managed to issue tenders on March 17.
“The project does not conform to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) standards. The petitioners’ aim is not to stop the dam but to safeguard their legitimate rights,” Alam said.
Redesign Daral Khwar Power Project: locals
Elders of Bahrain valley have resolved not to allow the government to commence work on Daral Khwar Power Project and demanded that it first address the communities’ reservations and rework its design.
Stakeholders who convened a meeting to discuss the impact of the project have asked the government to reconsider its decision. Local communities are apprehensive that the project will have negative fallout, leading to shortage of water. More than 40,000 trees will be chopped, depriving hundreds of families of their livelihood. The project will be executed by Sarhad Hydel Development Organisation.
Representatives of the affected communities from Bahrain and Daral valleys agreed to chalk out a strategy in the wake of the recent decision by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government to commence construction work on the project.
Institute for Education and Development Executive Director Zubair Torwali briefed the participants of the meeting on the campaign’s progress so far. He emphasised the need to chalk out a strategy for immediate action in view of the government’s decision to initiate work on the power project.
Jahangir Malik, an elder of the area said, “We see no benefit from the proposed project. It will cause scarcity of drinking water. Our irrigation channels will dry up which will cause irreparable harm to agriculture.”
All members expressed concern for water resources, the ecology and the environment and resolved to struggle for the cause.
Participants agreed to lobby with government representatives. They also decided to file a petition in the court to persuade the government to enter into a dialogue with community members.
Bakht Buland, a community leader and political worker said they would not permit any project which threatened to disrupt their lives. “The project will destroy everything. We will write a letter to the chief justice of the Supreme Court to request him to halt work on the project.”
Another participant, Inamullah said they would use every channel to advocate their cause and convey their message through electronic and print media. “We will also go to court to initiate a legal process against the project,” he said
The elders formed a seven-member committee comprising civil society workers and elders of the affected communities.
Community members, political workers and social activists and community participated in the meeting.
The hydel power project which will generate 36.6 megawatts electricity was approved in the 27th meeting of the board of directors of Sarhad Hydel Development Organization on March 17. The meeting was chaired by K-P Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2012.