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Plants and AnimalsReflections on Visits to Pakistan

Reflections on Visits to Pakistan

Reflections on Visits to Pakistan

Marc Foggin
|November 30, 2022

I first visited Pakistan three a long time ago, in the summertime of 1992, when as a biology student I went to help Dan Blumstein with a wildlife research project on golden marmots in Khunjerab National Park, situated within the far north of the country.

I’ve kept in contact with people I met there since then, however the nudge to return again got here from a likelihood encounter over pizza and beer in Kathmandu in January 2018. There, at a planning workshop focused on the conservation of the snow leopard and its mountain habitats, I unexpectedly bumped into an old acquaintance, who previously had been a field assistant like myself. Now, years on, he was a veteran development employee in his own right. We kept in contact and this 12 months, we finally found a chance to jointly discover more concrete ways in which we could support and strengthen local communities. Step one: an exploratory trip, where we could see and discuss first-hand in regards to the mountain regions of Pakistan, their people and natural environments, and a possible future collaboration.

Well aware of how Pakistan is facing heat waves and floods, yet hopeful that the mountains were spared a few of these challenges, we focused on the far north. Here, we had a double purpose — to return to cherished landscapes and communities, and to explore projects that might concurrently support community development and conservation. We knew that environmental concerns and native development, though often seen as opposed, may very well be brought together through the sustainable use of resources equivalent to rangelands and wildlife. We also were convinced there was an urgent must mix each of those dimensions, especially in critical landscapes where mountain livelihoods and priority conservation areas overlap.

After flying to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, in mid-July 2022, we set out from the large city and surrounding hot plains on a month-long exploration through the distant mountain regions to the north.

icy mountainside

The Karakoram mountain range is the second highest on the earth, situated mostly in northern Pakistan and linking the Himalayas with the Hindu Kush and Pamirs. (Courtesy of Marc Foggin)

We made our way first to Upper Chitral, situated along the border with Afghanistan, up the Yarkhun valley to the gateway of Broghil valley. The realm is inhabited by Wakhi pastoralists, an ethnic group with a population of around 50-60,000 people spread across border regions in China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Wakhi herders in Broghil valley speak a Persian dialect and so they proceed their traditional livelihood that largely depends upon the yak. Though the federal government has created a national park on this valley, it has yet to develop a “management plan” that might achieve conservation goals while allowing the local Indigenous community to proceed practicing yak husbandry in ways passed down over generations — ways which are appreciated each for his or her ecological sense in addition to for his or her deep contributions to the people’s sense of cultural identity.

Unexpectedly, we were invited to attend and observe the proceedings of a village council meeting at which around 40 people got here together. A recent chairperson was appointed on this big day and widespread mobilization of the local communities was evident, with discussions starting from how best to keep up roads, improve health services, enhance lands and agricultural production, and prepare for mountain disasters. With the devastating floods and landslides that soon were to reach and destroy most the homes and all fields on this region, this level of mobilization and native organization would change into essential for recovery and rebuilding.

villagers sitting under a tree

Participants in a village council meeting in July 2022. (Courtesy of Marc Foggin)

After Upper Chitral we traveled to Upper Hunza, passing through one in all the most infamous (dangerous) mountain roads on the earth to go to Shimshal village. The 50-km road was built over a period of 23 years, mostly by hand and largely by the community itself.

The Upper Hunza looks, to an outsider, like an entangled landscape of dry mountains and valleys, however the local people speak of a wide range of land types, each with its own characteristics and clearly prescribed activities, all being cared for by the community. Lately, area people associations equivalent to the Shimshal Nature Trust have been created in an effort to maintain and even strengthen such customary approaches in addition to to translate their traditions, thereby enabling simpler interaction with the federal government authorities accountable for forests, wildlife, and national parks.

small village in the mountains

Shimshal village, the best settlement within the district with an altitude of three,100 m above sea level. (Courtesy of Marc Foggin)

herd of animals moving through mountainous area

Shimshali herder en path to the Lupghar pastures situated at about 4,200 meters above sea level. (Courtesy of Marc Foggin)

Toward the top of our travels, we returned to Passu village and from there trekked about 25 km along Batura Glacier, one in all the world’s longest non-polar glaciers, to the bottom of the best peak within the westernmost subrange of the Karakoram, Batura Sar (7,795 m).

Herders from Passu and the nearby Hussaini village graze their livestock on this glacial valley, each on their respective sides. Each groups have taken responsibility to guard their wildlife through local community-based hunting conservancies with strictly enforced quotas based on annual population surveys of goal species, and with hunting fees that return in majority to the communities themselves.

two women and a herd of goats

Wakhi herders from Passu village within the Yashpirt summer pastures along Batura Glacier. (Courtesy of Marc Foggin)

Our conversations with local communities and with our friends and colleagues highlighted for us the large achievements which were revamped the past few a long time when it comes to local socioeconomic development, including community-led hunting tourism and constructing recent water channels for irrigated farming, alongside wildlife and forest conservation. Each of those local initiatives have been distinctly enabled by the more inclusive approaches which are made possible by community associations. Yet in lots of places, poor road conditions are still limiting access to services, mountain hazards are very real and the danger of climate-induced disasters stays a continuing think about on a regular basis life. Relations between the communities and formal national parks also have to be improved in several instances. Fortunately, there are already successful models from which we will learn in lots of places world wide.

What’s mandatory for these changes is already present: the knowledge, knowledge, insights and experience for bringing these changes was heard from many sources. Many modern individuals and institutions are clearly committed and at the moment are looking for to strengthen and to construct resilience in these fragile regions. We stay up for returning and collaborating on recent ventures together in the long run.

Marc Foggin has worked with local and indigenous mountain communities on the Tibetan plateau and in Central Asia for nearly 30 years as a conservation biologist, development practitioner, and researcher — mostly as founding director of the organization Plateau Perspectives in addition to being honorary research Associate within the School of Public Policy & Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. He was invited by the editors of GlacierHub to share this post.


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