Hindu Kush Conservation Association and other NGOs
20 April, 2014
PRESS RELEASE: Hindu Kush Conservation Association, Watan Welfare Society, Sarhad Conservation Network, Tribal NGOs Consortium and Da Laas Gul
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) has passed a resolution in a public gathering in Khwaja Khela against the construction of military cantonments in Swat. Earlier, Aza Khel Qaumi Jirga, Nikpa Khel and Swat Qaumi Jirga had also unanimously opposed this decision. Mehmood Khan Achakzai leader PMAP, has reportedly conveyed the opposition of local population to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against this ill-advised plan which shall seriously impact the climate and productivity of the entire region.
KP covers 80% of the forest cover of Pakistan. Malakand division comprises 60% of the forest areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and considered a veritable green belt of the region. Therefore a large infrastructure project such as military cantonments with multiplier effect shall negatively impact the natural resources. Precious variety of trees will be felled, land will be destroyed, rivers will be polluted, springs and water channels will be diverted and landscape will be altered. In eco-sensitive regions like Malakand there is need to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment of large infrastructure projects.
The “Pakhtoon Wali” is still the dominant rule of law. With establishment of cantonments in the Malakand division, this traditional code of conduct will be the first victim. The local community’s social infrastructure, social network, and social support systems will be ultimately destroyed. This is in violation to the International Convention on Indigenous People’s Rights.
The people of Malakand have been earning their livelihood for centuries through agriculture on their small farms. The areas have turned to fruit basket for the country. Given that large land use change will occur with military’s cantonments, this fruit basket will no longer exist, and will snatch of livelihoods from thousands of the affected families. Therefore a need arise to conduct a detailed socio-economic impact and cost-benefit analysis of cantonment establishment.
The decision of building three military cantonments in fertile, food producing lands of Kabal, Khwaja Khela and Barikot threatens to irreversibly impact this traditional food basket, which not only sustains the livelihoods of local population but also contributes through various agro products, to food security of down country, besides contributing huge foreign exchange to national exchequer.
“Climate Change” threatens fertility and food production owing to changing crop production patterns. Pakistan, according to experts, is destined for “desertification” by both man-made and climatic patterns by 2025. The plan violates all national, regional and global conventions on biodiversity and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Therefore, it should be challenged by environmental bodies, legal experts, policy makers and civil society members in the interest of a sustainable “green growth.”