SOS call from Upper Swat residents

Around 200,000 people of Upper Swat are on the brink of starvation with little hope of help.


Express August 13, 2010

PESHAWAR: Around 200,000 people of Upper Swat are on the brink of starvation as the area’s road links with the rest of the district and country could not be restored even after two weeks, a resident said.

Villagers have almost run out of supplies and the aid reaching the valley is not sufficient enough to sustain them any longer, said residents said the area, which is also known as Swat Kohistan.

Zubair Torwali, a resident of Bahrain told The Express Tribune from Mingora that the area has run out of food and other supplies due to the lack of access and most of the population is stranded in the valley.

Torwali pointed out that there were seven tributaries of River Swat in Upper Swat including Daral, Owran, Keedam, Mankyal, Oshu and Odhrur and following the rains, these rivulets washed away several villages, bridges, roads and hotels and also swelled the river, which caused widespread destruction in downstream areas.

Zubair said that the valley was around 50 kilometres long and the road that ran through it was completely destroyed by the swollen river and the 31 bridges connecting its eastern and western portions were also destroyed.

Residents have to travel for around 40 kilometres over mountain trails to reach Fatehpur just to fetch the aid provided by the government, he said. He said that it takes them at least two days to travel and take back the aid items to their villages.

He said that locals were trying to build a road on self-help basis, while skin and water borne diseases were also spreading in the area. Four children died in a diarrhea outbreak recently. Electricity supply had also been suspended as the Bahrain grid station was destroyed in the floods.

He said that timber worth billions of rupees had been washed downstream by the river and locals in the lower region had taken control of it. He asked the authorities to take the timber in their control and sell it and pass on the proceeds to its rightful owners.

The area economy depended on cash crops of vegetables, which has been destroyed now, while majority of the hotels in the area have also been washed away and the area economy is in ruins, Zubair added.

Haji Zameen, former nazim of Bahrain union council, said that the situation was critical and the area needed rations immediately. He said though the Chinook helicopters were engaged in the evacuation of tourists they could not land in the area and supplies through small helicopters were not sufficient for huge populations.

Army officials have told them that they have purchased around 80 mules and that work on the mule track in the area was to start soon, he said.

He added that floods had destroyed all water supply schemes and due to which most areas had no water supply and also lacked health facilities. He said that shops had run out of supplies and residents were facing great troubles.

Survival is the biggest issue for the area people, according to Khan Saeed, former nazim of Mankyal UC. “Food is not available in the area,” Saeed pointed out, adding that shops have run out of supplies and people are solely dependent on relief items.

Locals were working on building roads; but it was unlikely that they would be able to keep pace during Ramazan, Khan said.

He proposed that the government and aid agencies should make camps for the people in lower Swat, as it needed to supply food to a huge population in the absence of communication links. The relief efforts should have been on a war footing, but so far they have been abysmally slow, Khan added.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.

COMMENTS (1)

mussarat ahmedzeb swat | 11 years ago | Reply Wake up and plant trees the flooding is due to our own mistakes its is never to late or be prepared for floods again in the coming years.
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