Five years after the Attabad Landslide disaster, we can now finally look towards the future with a hope of reviving the region’s economy. A very large majority of the inhabitants of the areas upstream of Attabad are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture; thousands of tons of potatoes, apples, and dried apricots were being sold in down cities before the disastrous landslide, earning billions of rupees.
Till now, the cash value of local produce had decreased considerably, discouraging farmers from investing in farming, except for grain-storage, or growing vegetables for in-house consumption. Easy access to edible food items, donated by China and the USAID, also paid some role in discouraging farmers. These will change soon. Opening of the Karakuram Highway will enable the farmers to send their produce to markets elsewhere.
At this critical juncture, while the crop season comes to a halt due to the arrival of a short autumn, followed by a long winter, the elected PMLN leadership needs to step in and help the locals of Gojal Valley out of the economic stagnation. Policies, strategies and practical help on ground are needed now more than ever. Some of the steps that can be taken are;
- The notification declaring the Gojal region disaster hit needs to be tabled again and discussed to ensure that the disaster affected people get the benefits promised to them. And, if the notification was fake, then those responsible should be taken to task publicly;
- Agriculture bank micro-credit service had been outlawed for the Gojal after landslide because of an unknown reason. This unjust decision by authorities needs to be reviewed, and the farmers should be provided with soft loans. Also, the decision to write-off small loans of the farmers of the region needs to be implemented in letter and spirit. At the moment, IDPs and other affected people are being sent notices by banks to pay the loans back!
- National and international microcredit investors should be attracted to the region to help revival of the economy. The unemployment caused by the disaster needs to be taken notice of and addressed through practical measures. .
- Government can work with different NGOs to enhance youth’s capacities and enable them to generate income in their doorsteps.
- Gojal is the largest union council of Gilgit-Baltistan and it has also its geo- strategic significance because of junction to connect Pakistan with different countries through passes (Khunjrab, Shimshal and Click Mintika Misgar valley) territorial boundaries lies with China while Chipusan valley pass connect with China, Afghanistan and central Asia corridors. Therefore it is primarily right of local youths to avail all those resources benefits and opportunities from government and NGOs.