SWAT: Swat is facing a torrid time with the Matta tehsil still disconnected from the rest of the country and the entire of Swat Valley being in a complete blackout for the past three weeks. A population of nearly 80,000 is stranded with rising prices due to poor food supply, with lack of electricity compounding problems.
To cope with the price hike, people from Matta tehsil have to cross the Swat River in home-made boats. “Crossing the river in them is very dangerous. We are doing it out of compulsion, otherwise people will starve to death,” Bahadur Ali, a local boat owner told The Express Tribune. “On average, it takes Rs15,000 to build such boats. We are currently earning Rs. 2,000 a day, taking Rs100 per head and Rs100 for a 20kg sack of wheat flour,” he added.
Shopkeepers in Matta, however, say that it costs them a lot of money to transport goods across the river which results in higher prices. “Bringing in goods from the other side (of the river) is a Herculean task as it costs Rs200 to transport a 20kg bag of flour. If the government provides us goods here at market rate, we will surely sell them on almost cost to cost basis,” a local shopkeeper said.
A group of social workers belonging to the Sumbat area of Matta tehsil said: “We buy food in Khwaza Khela tehsil at market rate and deliver it to our village, after adding the transportation cost. The entire village is happy with us…they are unhappy with the government and curse it,” one of them said.
Local people have called for supplying food using helicopters so that they could get assured food supply without risking their lives. Dozens of people have lost their lives while going to the other side of the flooded river, they said.
Elsewhere, in Swat Valley, four main towers supplying electricity to the main grid station of Mingora have been swept away, leaving the whole district in darkness. Saeed u Rehman, a tailor in Saidu Sharif told The Express Tribune that “We are a having hard time regarding our livelihood as we can’t work to earn, so we are taking loans from one another to buy food and other essentials for our children.”
As with rising food prices, generator prices have also doubled. Meher Ali Shah, a local resident of the Swat Valley, said that the federal minister for the state and frontier regions, Najamuddin Khan, had taken all the Wapda workers belonging to their district, to Dir. Blaming one of the minister belonging to Swat, he said, “When the TMO Mingora was arrested under some corruption allegations, he disclosed that three power generators which had been provided by USAID to Tehsil Muncipal Administration, have been taken by Wajid Ali Khan for personal use.” Despite continuous announcements from the elected bodies and local authorities, electricity has not been restored.
Another major issue being faced by the people is the shortage of clean drinking water. Mansoor Khan, a computer salesman in Mingora Bazaar said “there is no sign of government authority to help us... so where should we go and whom do we call for help”.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2010.
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