By Muhammad Panah
Hunza connects with its neighboring areas through many passes, including Khunjerab Pass, Kilik Pass, Minitika Pass and Irhsad pass. These passes connect the region with different parts of China and Afghanistan. The locals living on these borders areas were the first line of defense against invaders in the past. The tough youth living these areas have proven to be a lethal force against aggressors and terrorists, from the heights of Siachin to the plains of the terrorist hit parts of the country.
In the recent times, the region has been a conduit for Chinese goods flowing into Pakistan and for the few Pakistani products that go towards China. The volume of exchange will increase manifolds in the near future as the economic corridor gets established.
Despite of matchless loyalty with their homeland, the border communities inside Pakistan are living in a worse economic condition, in difficult terrains and harsh climate conditions. One of the most immediate and crucial needs of the border communities in Pakistan, along the Chinese and Afghan border, is the shortage of firewood. The region’s terrain does not support massive vegetation and trees are very scarce due to height from the sea level. During the long harsh winters, keeping the houses warm is a challenge faced by hundreds of families. There are reports that deposits of coal are found in the region, but the people are unable to benefit from it due to land disputes and, above that, due to the fact that no significant effort has been made to mine the coal out.
A private company had started exploring the coal mines in the past but the efforts didn’t bear fruit after two years of work. The inhabitants still do not know for sure if there really are coal mines in the Chipursan region.
In the absence of firewood and other fuel for keeping the houses warm, people resort to purchasing coal imported from China, which puts an additional burden on the already cash strapped families. Many families also buy firewood from the markets, depleting their cash and getting left with nothing to spend on essentials like health, food adn education. Transporting the purchased coal and or firewood also means paying more money to transporters and laborers.
In this scenario, it is recommendable to the government to take major actions to resolve this big issue on priority bases. Here are few alternatives to overcome the biggest fuel issue in the areas!
- Accelerate the coal mining process with the help and consent of the local community, who are the biggest and most genuine stakeholders. This will also create jobs and income generation opportunities of the locals and fueling issue will be resolved permanently for the less populated region.
- Complete the all incomplete hydro-electricity project(s) pending from several years. The electricity thus generated can be used to lessen the demand for fuel
- Constructing run-of-the-river micro hydel power plants can also help reduce the fuel shortage in the region
- Local government can import coal from China in a subsidiaries price to fulfill fuel deficiency from the region.