Pakistan’s mountain farmers revive the upper Indus basin
“Water supply from a centuries old natural sparkling spring in our area was shrinking, getting turbid and polluted because of rising deforestation in our mountain village. I realised that farming was no more viable and was thinking of abandoning it to migrate to Islamabad with my family in search of labour,” recalled Naeem.
Namli Mera, one of the villages located around the Ayubia National Park, about 80 km from Islamabad, was once popular amongst tourists for its gushing, cold and sparkling waters of natural springs. But many dried up over the years.
Spread over 33 square kilometres, the park in the western Himalayas is surrounded by 12 villages and the three towns of Nathiagali, Ayubia and Khanspur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The area is known for its coniferous trees and is home to over 750 species of plants – 81 of them with medicinal value – and 203 bird, 31 mammal and three amphibian species.
The impact of climate change on water availability, rainfall and snowfall are evident. But things are looking up for people like Naeem, who have given up their plans to leave their ancestral homes to move to nearby cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Abbottabad after a Climate-Resilient Watershed Management Programme, launched in 2008 by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) and funded by the Coca Cola Foundation, came into effect.