When water in Swat receded, it had cleared all illegal structures along its banks. However, only a year after the floods, and despite a ban by the government, the land mafia has started illegal constructions along riversides.
The land mafia has also seized both sides of all the streams flowing in Swat Valley.
Due to these encroachments, the Swat River and the streams are once again narrowing down, which is not only risking the nearby areas, but also threatening the entire population living down the river due to blockage of water outlets.
“This is clearly a criminal activity. I don’t understand why the land mafia is free to seize the land along the river,” said Advocate Attaullah, a local.
Before the creation of Pakistan, when Swat Valley was a princely state, constructions along the riversides were strictly prohibited. “There was a proper demarcation set by the Wali-e-Swat and no one dared to challenge him,” he said.
But things are different now. Due to these illegal encroachments, the flow of water during the floods increased significantly, causing large-scale devastation across the valley.
“Our house was located farther away from the river, but due to these encroachments, which blocked the water into a dam, the water level rose in the rivers which turned towards our village,” said Sultan Zeb, a resident of Madyan. His entire village was washed away. “The government has claimed to stop the land mafia, but practically no implementation can be seen,” he added.
Regulation Assistant Officer Mian Qaiser Khan said, “As per the directives of the district coordination officer, we have demarcated the river and streams and the process of demolishing illegal construction is also underway.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.
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