SHANGLA: As autumn ends and snow starts to blanket Shangla, locals start to stock up on food because the harsh weather makes it hard for them to traverse the roads for daily errands.
Not only is commute an issue, a resident of Donai, Azizur Rehman, told The Express Tribune that gas is also not available to them and they use firewood as fuel. “But the government banned the use of firewood last year, leaving the people of Shangla to suffer.” Rehman added, “The forest department is arresting people and is imposing fines on the cutting of firewood.”
However, storing food and using firewood isn’t a solution to everyone’s problem.
A resident of Ajmeer, Mian Tahir, said, “The link roads are always closed during heavy snowfall and often we have to hike for eight to 10 hours to reach the desired destination.” He added they store food for three months. “Snowfall in our area usually starts in November and continues till end February.”
Days of business
Even as locals list weather woes, this time of year is welcomed by shopkeepers who see their business spike due to a rise in demand for all sorts of goods.
“In winter, residents of hilly areas come to stock on food and we supply most of the goods before heavy snowfall starts,” said Shafeeullah, a shopkeeper in Koz Kana. “This season witnesses an increase in our business.”
He added, locals are also willing to pay high prices for clothes, firewood and fodder for their cattle; animals cannot graze in open pastures as snow covers everything.
Not only do shopkeepers make a profit, tourists also rush to the valley.
“Yakhtangay is a popular tourism spot and the area has already received its first snow early November,” Waqas Ahmed, a resident of Puran, told The Express Tribune. “Therefore, tourists from different parts of Pakistan come here to enjoy the weather.”
The district administration has somewhat of a plan for the harsh weather, especially for Swat-Besham road. The administration has provided machinery to clear the snow on Shangla top and there are chances the roads will remain this time around.
Most winters see Shangla’s residents suffer as routes are blocked by rain and snow, causing many months of misery.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2015.