CHITRAL, March 28: Residents of Yarkhun Valley have complained about shortage of basic facilities and held the successive governments responsible for their misery.
Chairman of Tahafuz-i-Huqooq Yarkhun Ahmad Nawaz Shah told Dawn on Wednesday that the valley lacked healthcare and educational facilities, clean drinking water and proper roads.
He said most of the valley residents were poor, while natural calamities, including glacial outburst, avalanches, mud sliding and soil erosion, added to their sufferings.
Mr Ahmad said winter lasted more than five months in the valley restricting locals’ options for growing crops.
He said Yarkhun was a single crop zone with terribly low productivity, which fulfilled hardly 20 per cent of locals’ needs.
“Due to harsh climatic conditions and altitude, no fruits and vegetables can be grown here for household consumption and generating money,” he said, adding that locals left the valley in winter for other districts to earn livelihood.
The Tahafuz-i-Huqooq Yarkhun chairman said most parts of the valley had no roads forcing people to cover long distances by feet.
He also complained about lack of health and educational facilities and said the valley had no high school, while people had been forced into drinking contaminated water to the damage of their health.
Mr Ahmad said in light of the peculiar nature of the soil, cultivation of hashish and opium was introduced in the valley in 1930s, while farmers benefited a lot from the bumper crops they produced thereafter.
He said charas business was a major source of revenue for the formerly state of Chitral, while locals flourished by cultivating hashish.
He, however, said poppy cultivation was prohibited by the government in early 1970s with the promise of royalty but that was never paid to the locals’ misery.