BROGHIL VALLEY: Garam Chashma – literally ‘hot spring’ – is a village in Broghil, a valley in the north of Chitral District near the sensitive Wakhan Corridor, which is located 250km from the main Chitral town. Last year, due to global warming, the valley received earlier-than-usual snowfall which has resulted in an acute shortage of food supplies in the village.
Although the valley has no agricultural land, the Wakhi community crossed the border from China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan to settle in Broghil for its vast meadows. They lead a simple, rustic life here with bare minimums, thriving mostly on whatever the valley has to offer.
Due to the high altitude, trees in the valley are a rare sight, so for heating and cooking purposes locals use josh, a local grass which thrives at high altitudes. Horses and donkeys are the main source of transportation in the valley, including yaks, a long-haired bovid found throughout the Himalayan region. During winters, people wear the skin of these domestic animals to protect themselves against the intense cold.
This time, Broghil received its first snowfall on September 20, 2015, two months earlier than expected. This was followed by another heavy snowfall on October 16 and then again on November 20.
As a result, unwary locals are currently facing a mountain of challenges.
There is a shortage of food as the valley is cut off from the rest of the country. Due to heavy snowfall, roads are blocked and it takes over 20 hours to reach Broghil from Chitral and surrounding villages.
Each year, before the arrival of winter, traders from Gilgit-Baltistan came to the valley to purchase animals. “Due to early snowfall roads were blocked and no one came to buy our animals. We don’t have money to buy food,” says Aslam Baig, a resident of Chikar village, in Wakhi language. Due to a shortage of supplies, the price of everyday commodities has also shot up. For instance, salt has become a luxury item for most families, with a small packet costing nearly Rs150.
These days, locals depend on yak meat, milk, yoghurt and korat (a dish made from yogurt) for survival. Life here is tougher than usual. However, in a telephonic conversation, Amir Muhammad, manager at Focus Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan, an international group of agencies established to complement the provision of emergency relief, in Chitral, says, “We have so far sent food items for 230 families on January 15. Each food package includes one kilogramme of flour, five litres of cooking oil and two kilogrammes of salt.” The delivery of packages took three days and horses and donkeys were used to carry the packages after a certain point, adds Amir.
The situation is so critical that a local paramilitary force, the Chitral Scouts, have shared their ration with those who can no longer afford to buy it themselves.
Additional input by Muhammad Daud Khan.