By Sadia Khalid
Fairy Meadows also said to be the پریوں کا چراگاہ . It was named by German climbers (German Märchenwiese, “fairy tale meadows”) and locally known as Joot, is a grassland lying under the shadow of the sleeping beauty, Nanga Parbat. Fairy Meadows is situated in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Its altitude is about 3300 meters or 10,800 feet above sea level. Usually people accessed this point through the Raikot bridge. The Raikot Bridge is located 80km from Gilgit and 400km from Islamabad. Undoubtedly, it is the “Heaven on the Earth” with its lush green scenery along with the abundance of trees.
The length of the jeep trek towards Fairy Meadows is fifteen-kilometer-long, starting from Rakhiot bridge on Karakoram Highway till Tatu village. The dangerous and narrow gravel mountain road from the bridge to the village is only open to local transporters, who provide transportation services to visitors. They charged Rs. 8600 for the two-way round In 2013.
Afterwards, it takes about two to three hours hiking by a five kilometer trek Fairy Meadows. The trek is stony, sandy and barren till the mid, which takes one and half an hour to two to reach till the end. There are some Dhabas operated by the locals mid-way and then the trek gets gradually steep in ascending, but more beautiful. There are entwining streams inside the forest of Tattu. This valley is also known as Raikot valley. Since 1992, locals have been operating different hotels, shops and camping sites in the area.
This peaceful, serene and calm mountains always mesmerizes the tourists. It is also famous for wildlife, including the endangered species of the “Brown Bear” musk Deers ,markhors, snow leapards, wolves and some species of birds. The forests have many plant species, including Pinis wallichiana, Picea, Abies Pindrow trees, Smithiana, junipers, birch and willow dwarf shrubs. The area was declared as a National Park in 1995 by the government but implementation remains a challenge, because the people of Tatu village claim ownership the forests and surrounding lands.
The total population of the Tatu village is about 4500-5000. Tatu in the local Shina language means “hot”, and the village gets its name due to presence of hot water springs.
In 1868, people purchased the land in this region and thus they did not let government to make it a national park. All the hotels were constructed using dead fallen wood along with an underground sewerage system. Unfortunately, there are no set policies of contracting hotels or managing it effectively by local government. The locals are building the hotels as per their need and choices without considering forest management. They were also less considerate about the water and waste management.
There were no traces of sign boards for guiding tourists and dustbins along with trekking path and even at the meadows. Recently, local government started a cleaning activity with hotel owners to get rid of plastic waste. But, one- time activity is useless , until the hotel owners, tour operators, guides and local tourists took the initiative of clean and green fairy meadows themselves.
The people of the region are self-reliant in terms of food production. The locals are involved in occupations like cultivating agricultural lands, livestock, hotel industry, transport, working as porters and operating small shops. There were less job and business opportunities in nearby cities for these people.
There is only one primary school upgraded to the middle level with the help of the University of Lahore. Regrettably, there is no high school or college, teachers’ training center or vocational centers to make people financially stable. Literacy rate is low in the region due to poor economic conditions and lack of awareness regarding the education. The people need to move to nearby cities in Chilas or Gilgit for higher education.
Only one government dispensary is functioning in the village and one is functioning at fairy meadows for tourists which could not meet the needs of the locals in case of emergencies. It is really hard for the patients and their family to reach nearby cities, due to logistical issues, caused by rough terrains. Other challenges faced by the locals include lack of electricity, cellular signals, forest management and financial independency.
The village is among the few areas of Pakistan which followed the set patterns of rules decided by the Jirga controlled by elders or respectable people in the community. It is great dilemma for locals that could not use their voices to highlight these challenges and problems. All the young people of this community who have the access to the social media platforms are usually busy in promoting the unmatched beauty of these mountains and thus less vocal about their actual issues.
There is immediate need of updating the level of the primary school to hgher secondary along with vocational centres. The government may also put emphasis of introducing teacher-training for school teachers for improving school education. The different vocational programs for girls and boys may help them learning technical skills and running their home-based business. The community engagement may also proved useful for forest and wildlife management. Therefore, it is concluded that government and local people must come on one platform to discuss their problems , so government could able to assign the tasks to designated departments with allocated funds for immediate solutions. With the effective local administration and community involvement, fairy meadows wont lose its exquisiteness, tranquility and timberlands in the coming years.
The contributor has a PhD in Education. She is a Youth and Climate Activist and founder of “Climate Education Warriors.”