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Socio-Economic Profile of Chitral

Ghani ur Rehman,
Assistant Professor of Economics, Government College Chitral.

ghaniur rehman lecturer gdc ChitralChitral is an administrative district in the extreme north of KPK Province of Pakistan. It has common borders with the districts of Dir and Swat in the south, Ghizer in the east and Afghan provinces of Badakhshan and Nuristan, in the North and Noth-West. It is separated from Tajakistan by the narrow Wakhan Corridor. Border villages/valleys of Chitral like Arandu, Kalash valleys, Garamchashma areas starting from Arandu up to Boroghil, are connected with Afghanistan through porous borders and mountain passes. Total area of Chitral is 14850 Sq K.M, pf which 4% has forest cover, 2% cultivable waste and about 3% cultivated area. Remaining area of the district consists of mountains, barren lands with sparse vegetation, especially in case of upper Chitral. Although mountains of upper Chitral are bare, and do not contribute any type of support in provision of fuel to local community and no effort has been made by forest department, NGOs and Local community to experiment growing of plants in those mountains. According to conservative estimates only 4% of the district is under forest which is not encouraging. The existing limited area under forest is on the verge of depletion due to fast growth in population of the district. Another detriment to the source of forest is illegal harvesting of scarce forests both by members of timber mafia and the relevant government organisations in the garb of artificial harvesting through the notorious process of marking by local contractors. If whole of the district forest is destroyed then future historians will easily nominate FDC and Artificial Harvesting (Marking) and subsequent supply of forest to down country are the major factors which result premature depletion of forest resources which is symbol Chitral beauty and greenery. According to various organizations report working in Chitral total population of the district is about 0.4 million, which is comparatively high as compare to resources of the district.
There is no industrial infrastructure in the district and majority of population rely on service sector for their sustenance and prefer to get government service instead of doing business or other way of livelihood. Non-existence of industrial base in the district is also a reason which causes motivation of the people towards service sector and preferably government service where incentive and salary package is attractive comparing to free market. Education level in the district is very high and Chitral is very prominent with regard to education and literacy rate throughout KPK. Unfortunately system of education in the district is very primitive and based on general studies instead of doing specialization in any field. Existing education system prevailing in Chitral like rest of the country based on theoretical knowledge which result mass unemployment among youth due to non-commensuration of the curriculum with job market. Another problem with education system is that it produces unproductive educated class which does not contribute in any productive sector of the economy except looking for government job which are too short to meet increasing demand.
Food security is another big threat faced by the people of Chitral in the coming future. Presently, whenever supply of commodities is blocked due to closure of Lowari Tunnel, it result shortage of basic commodities in the market of Chitral. If supply of basic items from down country stops for a few days, entire market of Chitral under-goes grim situation which reflect vulnerability of the district in terms of food security and other basic items. With growing increase in population, situation will further aggravate. Even fodder for livestock is now brought from down country to Chitral for rearing cattle. Population growth in district Chitral is comparatively low than the national growth rate but still it is regarded as alarming for coming generation. With increase in population rate and excessive migration of people to Chitral town, population of town area has increased manifold and produced numerous problems. As a result of migration from far-flung villages to Chitral town population in town Chitral has become extremely dense, which caused increase in price of property to skyrocketing level in Town Chitral. If price of property in Chitral is compared with rest of the country it is equal to the price of posh areas in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. People from down country are also trying to settle in Chitral due to its peaceful atmosphere for the new settlers. Migration of people both from upper Chitral and down Chitral to limited town of Chitral resulted tremendous pressure on scarce resource of the town. If this trend continues un-abated, there will be no space available for residential purpose in town Chitral within a few years.
Pollution is a direct result of population growth and migration of people from rest of the district towards town Chitral. River water contamination, heaps of garbage in every nook and corner of the town and discharging sewer water in Chitral River are severe problems faced by inhabitants of Chitral. Plastics of different types are also lying in various places and make whole area polluted and disfigure beauty of the district in awkward manner. District government, Non-Government Organizations and members of civil society are also ignoring this issue which poses serious threat to environment of Chitral.
Like other parts of Pakistan Chitral also faces serious problem of energy crisis and electricity breakdown. District Chitral is rich in hydel power potential due to large numbers of water fall as well as availability of ample water resources for electricity generation in the district, but government had not taken any step to tape this potential of Chitral. According to survey reports conducted by various NGOs and development organizations about 14000 Mega watt electricity could be generated from various parts of Chitral through water Sources, but so far only five or six mega watt had been generated in Chitral.
Excessive population growth in the district squeezed cultivable land by diverting agriculture land to residential town and farm forests to barren land. If this trend continues in near future Chitral will face serious energy crisis due to scarcity of fuel wood, unless alternative source of energy is provided in the district. Due to geographical location of the district cold weather extend for more than six months in Chitral and excessive pressure on limited oak forest available only in lower Chitral result increase in price of fuel wood and this trend is increasing every year. Establishment of hydel power station on macro level and implementation of Turkmenistan & Pakistan Gas pipeline is ray of hope to get over energy crisis in Chitral. But both of the projects are time consuming, until these projects are implemented short terms projects like maximum use of bio-technology, solar energy and other green technologies could solve energy and fuel crisis in Chitral on temporary basis. It is also to mention here that Turkmenistan & Pakistan Gas Pipeline although passes through Chitral.
. Chitral possess rich mineral, water and other resources which could improve economic sustainability of the district, if these are properly tapped and used for well being of the people living in the district. Especially marble, iron and other minerals are still un- explored and un-exploited by government and other development organizations. Main problem on the way of exploring these resources is accessibility of the commodity to national and international market due to poor road facility and lackluster development on the project of Lawari tunnel project. If road from Chitral to down country is developed on proper manner it will help in supply of Chitrali products to down country and enhance economic development of the area. Economic challenges of Chitral are numerous which could not be chalked out in this short essay. Following suggestions and recommendations are presented to make Chitral viable and economically developed district of KPK.
1. There are many educational institutions working in Chitral imparting general education but no technical and vocational institute is operating both in private and government sector. To develop human resources of Chitral, technical and vocational educational institutions are required to be established in Chitral, otherwise un- employment among educated youth will cause serious economic and social problem in Chitral.
2. Excessive growth in population and pressure on limited forest resources will result serious fuel crisis in Chitral and availability of alternative source of fuel as well as timber will control deforestation in the district.
3. There is abundance of mineral resources in Chitral which can make it economically Developed, if these resources are properly tapped and supplied in down country market through improving road transport and developing lawari tunnel on proper manner.
4. Tourism is a rich source of revenue generation in Chitral if law and order situation is improved in KPK and greenery of the district is maintained by controlling deforestation as well as preserving unique Kalash culture which is also strong point of attraction of foreign tourists.
5. Introduction of alternative source of energy in Chitral is dire need of the day. Reliance of whole population on limited oak forest causes for supply of fuel impact economic condition of the people as well as deteriorate environmental situation in Chitral.
6. District Chitral is known for its peaceful environment both national and international level and this situation should remain intact. Extremist factors across the borders of Afghanistan posed serious security situation in the district and government should take extra-measures to preserve existing peaceful situation in the district which is the only positive factors and it will result improvement in economic condition of the district.
7. Food security and vulnerability of the district in terms of basic needs of life is serious challenge for new generation. Economic prosperity and development could only be achieved if self-reliance is gained instead of dependency on down district even for supply of animal fodders. Both government and NGOs should work on war footing to cure the problem of food security which is looming in future.
8. According to 1998 census and other survey women share 50% of the whole population in the district, but their contribution in economic activities is very discouraging. As compared to past role of women in economic field declined after spread of education, which is defective in nature and not match market demand. Hence professional education system should be designed for Human Resource Development (HRD) in the district instead of spreading mass education which result unproductive labor force and unemployment in the society.

A Website on the Culture, History and Languages of Chitral.