Known for its natural beauty, the historic Soon Sakesar Valley located in the Salt Range, provides a unique sanctuary to a host of migratory birds in winters and is a special attraction for tourists.
Situated in the north-west of Khushab, the valley neglected for decades, attracted attention of the government and its partner organisations in the early 21st century, following which a number of development projects were implemented.
A visit to the valley arranged for journalists by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), permitted a first-hand account of the projects being carried by PPAF for socio-economic empowerment of its communities. PPAF Chief Executive Qazi Asmat Esa said the projects aim to empower marginalised segments, such as women and people with disabilities and preserve the natural environment of the valley.
PPAF, in collaboration with Soon Valley Development Programme (SVDP), issued grants for efficient on-farm water management schemes, while 34 sub-projects were executed in which pressure pipes were laid for 373 tube-wells to irrigate 1,827 acres in various villages across the valley. It has been estimated that 847 households or around 4,842 persons have benefitted from these projects.
Additionally, a Drought Mitigation and Preparedness Programme, was also launched in 2004, which included a water balance model that envisaged changes in crop patterns and construction of physical infrastructure projects such as delay action dams, check dams, rain water harvesting ponds and efficient irrigation schemes.
“A Geographical Information System base of natural resources and proposed interventions was also developed by PPAF through SVDP,” said SVDP Executive Director Gulbaz Afaqi.
Local residents said social mobilisation and organisation of communities has resulted in coherent response to challenges of natural resource management, ground water resource management and forest management.
According to data obtained from 43 sites in six union councils in the valley, ground water recharge has increased significantly and measures taken by SVDP has resulted in better crop yield and increased economic returns.
Locals also said there are more avenues for employment now and availability of water during dry weather is not a problem anymore.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2011.