Booni, Chitral, Pakistan
*1. **Introduction & Background*
10/10/10 International Day of Climate Change was celebrated in Booni,
Chitral, Pakistan, through the joint venture of Chitral Association for
Mountain Area Tourism (CAMAT) and Orion School of Learning (OSL). The event
was facilitated by 350.org. the theme of the day was ‘Breaking of Booni
Glacier, Its Relation to Climate Change’. As many as 500 people from
different walks of life e.g. community leadership, women representatives,
scholars, volunteers, parents and students participated.
The day has had significance for the people of Booni, Chitral as they have
recently witnessed a devastating flood destroying their valuable property
and causing them major health problems, psychological twists and
infrastructure disruption. This bitter experience has sensitized the locals
to seriously think about saving the natural environment.
The objectives to observe the day was to join the worldwide communities in
highlighting problems—breaking of glacier, untimely melting of snow,
frequent floods and unpredictable climate conditions—in the Hindu Kush
Mountains apart from sensitizing the local communities.
The activities of International Day of Climate Change were as follows:
To begin with, speeches aimed at enumerating the prospects of climate change
in the Hindu Kush Mountains, were delivered. Mr Sadruddin, the principal of
Orion School of Learning (OSL) impressed upon the participants to prepare
themselves and their children for the protection of Booni village by
protecting natural environment. He pointed out that such preparation could
be attained through inculcating environmental-friendly education to children
within the family right from their childhood. In turn, this will make the
task easier for teachers, once they are admitted to schools. He also said
that ecology/ natural biodiversity had to be included into the curriculum of
government/ private schools as compulsory subject right from class 1st.
Meanwhile; teachers need to be imparted skill enhancement training with
regards to natural environment.
Mr Shams Uddin, Manager CAMAT, who was also organizer of the event, upheld
that nature has the characteristics quite like those of a loving mother.
Nonetheless, the difference is that ‘mother’ along with her children is
dependant on a healthy ‘mother nature’ for sustainable life. Nature feeds us
with a variety of cereals, fruits and vegetable. It provides us with oxygen
and clean water to mention a few. Bearing this in mind, we have to take
great care of nature, the manifestation of which could be the adoption of
environmental-friendly manners and values by the entire society.
Advocate Amir Akber Khan, himself a social worker, said that we did not have
to loose time waiting for another catastrophe to happen. We have to stand
united to tackle the flood in future. First, proper canalization of the
stream bed stream is paramount importance. Second, ‘as charity begins at
home’, there has to be hectic and coordinated fund raising campaign in the
Booni village. “In order to save the village from further devastation, even
livestock have to be sold out and the same amount be invested on canalizing
the stream bed and construction of protective walls along the stream line”,
he said. Meanwhile, grazing on the Booni Gol rangeland has to be
for ever. Without coming forward to deal with the problem with our own
resources, we should not expect government and NGOs to play role in this
He categorized the local communities into those educated ones who read out
from books and watch television that is helpful in raising their
understanding and motivate them for practical action. Second, there are
people who just learn from witnessing some unforgettable events being
unfolded, as was the breaking of the Booni glacier, which he termed as an
eye-opener for the people.
The students arranged an exciting theatre centering on the Booni flood and
its aftermath. The play they enacted depicted social, political, cultural
complexities in times of crisis and highlighted the helpfulness of modern
technology. For instance, mobile phone was used as an instrument for Early
Warning System (EWS) by volunteers high up in the Booni stream. Similarly,
they played of individuals who remained oblivious towards natural hazards as
they basically lacked the inbuilt knowledge and skills to assess the
enormity of a natural disaster. Likewise lack of medical care,
non-existence of portable water that led to widespread water born diseases
was effectively highlighted. Further, the women’s drudgery of fetching water
from long distance for household use and cattle constituted interesting part
of the play.
The participants appreciated the efficiency of the students in preparing the
theatre work and the way they played.
*5. **Songs for Environment*
The students sang songs of love for nature apart from the serene beauty of
the Chitral district with its lakes, snow-capped peaks, forest, alpine
meadows, flowers, medicinal herbs, fruits and crops, all of which depend on
a suitable natural climate. The singers mourned the missing of the valuable
bird species from the ecological chain. Some birds used to live when most of
the participants were young people. It was indicated that climate change has
been responsible for the migration/ extinction of the precious bird species.
*‘Don’t turn my heaven into hell’ *was the theme of poetic session. The
student poets wisely couched the issues climate change into poetic language.
They appealed to the sentiments of the participants to save the natural
environment of the region to degrade into a sort of ‘hell’ by becoming
unbearably hot. Further, funny anecdotes related to natural environment were
shared with the audients. Pieces of engaging wits were skillfully blended
into making the cause of climate change more motivating. It must be noted
that *Khowar* poetic sessions have been used as an effective tool of
campaign to mobilize communities for political issues, poverty, financial
corruption and forced marriage and so on.
A placard bearing walk of parents and students through the Booni village was
taken out from OSL, which ended as it reached near the Booni Market. The
purpose of the walk was to spread the message of International Day of
Climate Change amongst the villagers.
The participants of the International Day of Climate Change in Booni,
Chitral, northern Pakistan, put forward the recommendations as follows:
· That there has to be an effective fund raising campaign by the
local communities to protect the Booni from the catastrophe of natural
hazards in future. To this end, every household has to contribute a sizeable
amount even if they have sell out their livestock.
· The environmental-unfriendly practice of irration grazing of the
Booni Gol rangeland by the nomads, who keep as many as 6000 goats and sheep,
has to be halted forthwith.
· Standard research work by reputed glaciologists and environment
scientists is what the participants recommended to properly evaluate,
understand and establish authentic baseline data on the deteriorating
condition of natural environment in the mountains of Chitral.
· In order to protect the Booni from the spillover of mud-flood in
future, check dams need to be constructed in the side valleys high up in the
Booni Gol rangeland.
· Protective walls have to be constructed at different points where
the flood has already broken into the villages. However, such protective
walls have to be technically sound with their foundation deep into the
· Deforestation of juniper, birch and shrubs in the Booni Gol
rangeland has to be immediately stopped and efforts for plantation on a wide
scale has to be undertaken by communities/ school students.
· The bed of the Booni stream needs to be canalized to provide
permanent course for the stream. This way the stream can wash into the
Mastuj River the material that the flood deposited all along the stream bed.
· There have to be awareness raising seminars, workshops and
conferences on climate change and its impacts on the mountainous communities
· Last but not the least, the participants thanked Chitral
Association for Mountain Area Tourism (CAMAT) and Orion School of Learning
(OSL) for organizing the event of International Day of Climate Change, which
the local community so urgently needed.