Italian High Commission’s tireless efforts to promote environmental conservation in the mighty Himalayas and Karakorum in Pakistan yielded positive results when the Global Change Impact Studies Centre and EvK2Cnr signed a memorandum of understanding. The MOU will facilitate the establishment of regional centers in the Karakorum to conduct extensive research on the geographical terrain. This is the first of its kind agreement signed between the Pakistani Government and an outside body and envisions a wide range of subjects including the layout of the Central Karakorum National Park.
There has been a pressing need to conduct extensive research studies on the massive glacial system the country possess and many of the foreign agencies wanted a platform which would facilitate the said research work in the area.
This MOU will help the establish research centers which will facilitate activities related to scientific and observational studies on climate change. This will enable the researches all over the world to ascertain the causes and effects of Global Warming and its impact on the glacial system of the subcontinent.
The MOU was signed between the Federal Minister for Climate Change Rana M Farooq Saeed Khan, the Director General of the Ministry Javaid Ali Khan and the EvK2Cnr representative Agostina Da Polenza.
“Today was a very important agreement was signed.” said Polenza, “EvK2Cnr received in this case the recognition and interest to cooperate by not just bodies or agencies or the regional governments but by the national government of the entire country like Pakistan.”
The MOU was signed in Islamabad on a day where the federal capital received one of the heaviest downpours of spring after 14 years. The hailstorm lasted for several minutes rolling out a white carpet on the otherwise lush green terrain of the city.
Polenza added, “This agreement was accompanied by one of the most cheerful, exceptionally loud ice storm I have ever witnessed. I could not help but feel the storm as a testament to what is appropriate to continue to study the climate and its stark cambimenti.
EvK2Cnr also presented a layout of the Central Karakorum National Park which will include the high lands of the Khunjerab Pass in the northern-most end of the country. The committee has worked extensively in the past three years to create awareness about the degradation of regional ecology and the aftermath of the disturbance caused by it.
Dragging through the unforgiving Pamir
Welcome to the land of the Afghan- Kyrgyz nomads, some 1200 people living in one of the harshest regions, in the world.
Marred by the regional tensions dating as far back as 150 years, these people were part of the larger population which treaded the legendary silk route from Tajikistan through Afghanistan into modern day Pakistan and China. The sudden culmination of the First World War and the ensuing regional tensions between the Superpowers left an indelible impact on the lives of these poor nomads who were heavily dependent on the meagre volume of trade which existed between the different markets of these countries.
Yak herders enroute to Pakistani Markets
Crossing mountain passes as high as 5000m above sea level, higher than any of the mountain peaks in Alps, these herders primarily depended on their herds of Yak, often touted as the “ship of the Snow”. They have been wondering in the mountain passes of the Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan for thousands of years and were finally condemned to this 350km long Wakhan Corridor which is, at places, just 15kms wide.
one of the overnight stays during the ten-day long journey
The unforgiving winters here last for a gruesome nine months where the temperatures often drop to as low as -30 ° Celsius making it one of the toughest inhabited places in the world. In earlier times, these Kyrgyz people travelled to the greener pastures of the Wakhan Corridor, travelling through the rugged passes of the Pamir in search of greener pastures for their cattle. The Russian Revolution in 1917 cut off part of that route and when the Chinese closed their borders after the revolution in 1949, some Kyrgyz were trapped in this desolate part of the Wakhan Corridor, with their estranged brethren on the other side.
A young couple's camp made out of Yurts, cloth and mud
Compromising with their merciless environment and surroundings, they moulded to an intrinsically nomadic style of living, travelling through most times of the year. They are often seen residing in mud huts, stone caves, and even “Yurts” made of the Yak skin and stones. Trading their Yak Butter (considered more nutritious than the regular butter) and cheese, Yak and goat skins and their precious cattle, these nomads acquire the much needed essentials of life like the flour, tea, coffee, televisions, electronic gadgets, radio etc., from the bustling Pakistani markets across the Pamir. Their journey back to their village across the Wakhan will take another 10 days of intermittent travelling, testing their nerves yet again.
A young bride would cost around 100 sheep
Half of the children born never make it to their fifth birthday and most of the women die while giving birth. There are no doctors and no medical facilities which have forced these nomads to rely heavily on Opium. From toothaches to petulant cancers, these nomads have turned to addicts in hopes of curing their ailments.
The ultimate Kyrgyz status symbol—a Bactrian camel
The Corridor is such a far-flunged place that the decades old Afghan War barely had an impact over the lives of these nomads. Some of the handful foreigners who have been able to make it to these places have narrated their observations about this land regarding these people as rich and affluent with abundance of cattle and dairies.
Tending their precious assets
“Though paper money is almost non-existent, many camps’ herds contain hundreds of valuable animals, including the horses and donkeys used for transportation. The basic unit of Kyrgyz currency is a sheep. A cell phone costs one sheep. A yak costs about ten sheep. A high quality horse is 50. A going rate for a bride is 100”. says Michael Finkel, the National Geographic Photographer who lived with these nomads for several months.
Out of the 32 sub-species of wolves, two are believed to be found in Pakistan. These include the Tibetan Wolf (Canis Lupus Chanco) and the Indian Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus Panllipes).
In Pakistan the Tibetan Wolf inhabits the barren Rocky valleys Baltistan, Gilgit, Hunza, Chitral, Upper Swat and Khunjerab National Park. The Grey Wolf is found in deserts of Cholistan, Tharparkar and lower hills of Baluchistan.
Currently, Grey Wolf is also found in Kirthar National Park, Chumbi Surla Wildlife Sanctuary, Hazar Ganji Chiltan National Park, Hingol National Park, Dureji Game Reserve and Lal Sohanra National Park.
The Grey Wolf is a habitual roamer and occasionally occurs in almost any type of habitat but generally avoids natural forest regions as well as densely populated areas. It is mainly confined to remotely barren hilly regions and extensive deserts.
The Grey Wolf inhabits open plains (Semi-arid grasslands, Scrublands, Grazing land) whereas other large Carnivores and forest dwellers. Their territories range from 150-300kms and are a function of prey and denning terrain availability. The Grey Wolf lives in burrows generally in the sand hills and under the tree roots.
The Grey Wolf largely depends on Livestock, primarily goats and sheep and even small rodents such as rats and hare. They are persecuted by shooting because of depredation on domestic goats and sheep and their population is on a steep decline.
The expansion of agricultural activities into marginal areas, including open plains, result in loss of habitat. Decline in habitat occur due to high human population, land use patterns, development activities, grazing pressure, deforestation and poor-prey availability.
Currently the Grey Wolf has been declared endangered by IUCN Taxon Data Sheet 2003 and Pakistan Red List of Mammals 2005.
Urial is one of the natural prey specie but illegal Trophy hunting and poaching for the past several years has severely affected the Urial population subjecting the wolves to attack the domestic animals.
Disturbance in the habitat of both Urial and Grey Wolf through firing and military exercises has also affected their population particularly in the region of Salt Ranges in Jhelum.
The local people reported that majority of the livestock killing were outside the enclosures but in some of the cases the wolf attacked inside the fence which was three to four metre high.
· The potential habitat should be protected for the conservation of Grey Wolf.
· Habitat should be protected with prohibition on collection of forest products, domestic livestock grazing, forest fires, and other human activities.
· Conducting research studies using high tech gadgets like the motion sensor cameras and Night Vision sensors etc to ascertain the population of wolves in the country.
· Paying compensation to the owners of livestock killed by wolf and imparting proper education about the importance of ecological balance and the necessity of canines at the top of the Food chain.
· Enforcing legal protection by Wildlife Department and Forest Department.
· Encouraging public support and environmental education and awareness.
Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK) in general and the once thriving city of Peshawar in particular, have long been drooling in a state of confusion stemming right out of the bloody War on Terror which has now entered its 13th successive year.
The extremists took hold of the cultural reigns of the region at the beginning of last decade, altogether changing the way that people have led their lives for centuries. The following years witnessed several Cinemas gutted down, traditional festivities gradually faded into darkness and there was nothing left but an eerie silence of fear and restlessness among the scared Peshawarities.
The General Elections in the later years brought the Islamists into power further tightening the noose around those who have been striving to bring some sense in the declining cultural norms of the province.
The reign ended in 2008 bringing in moderates into power and although the Awami National Party did not prove to be any less corrupt and inefficient, it has managed to rekindle the dwindling Pakhtun Identity in the region.
Mushtaq Ahmed, one of the only Rabab maker left in the city narrated his ordeal of how he has been able to hang in with his diminishing skill of Rabab making.
“There was a time when a Pathan’s hujra (guestroom) would be incomplete without a chillum (pipe) and Rabab, but now trends have changed,” said Mushtaq. “The law and order situation in the city has greatly affected my business”, he added.
“When security problems worsened in Peshawar and cultural events came to a halt, the instrument lost its place in the public realm,” said Malik Nisar, a rabab player in Peshawar. “New musicians love Rababs and some even buy it these days”.
Cultural Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain inaugurated the Pashto Cultural Museum at the University of Peshawar, on December 4th, further strengthening the hope of the stricken Peshawarites.
The Museum will work towards the promotion of Pakhtun cultural identities ranging from handicrafts, traditional dresses, lifestyles, ancient weapons, jewelry and musical instruments.
Dr. Salma Shaheen, the curator of the museum lamented the dearth of such facilities across the province where the new generation can have the chance to see and learn the true colours of their fading culture.
Dr. Shaheen said that the museum will provide the necessary impetus for the betterment of Pashto language, literature, history, art and other fields of study.
The museum had been a work-in-progress since 2006. The foundation stone of the museum was laid down by then governor Ali Mohammad Jan Orakzai in October of the same year, with funding provided by the Higher Education commission.
Hussain lauded the hard work done by Dr. Shaheen, the University’s Vice Chancellor Qibla Ayaz and other people involved in the creation of the museum.
He said, “The museum is a very good initiative that also highlights the services of those who have rendered sacrifices for Pakhtuns in the past”.
The Fashion Show organised by the Iqra National University, Peshawar Campus, also created ripples when several beautiful models walked down the aisle, showcasing the latest fashion trends in the country.
Peshawar’s bold leap in fashion was arranged at Deane Trade Centre on December 5th and was attended by several dignitaries and fashion icons of the country.
As the Great Inoki revisits Pakistan after a lapse of 36 years, the name has rung so many bells in the minds of all those who have been caught up in an imaginary showdown between Inoki and the Great Gamma since their childhood, where the later came out victorious and invincible as ever.
Although no such fight between the two legendary wrestlers ever took place, the two giants from the world of wrestling have mesmerized children providing them all the necessary material for fantasies. Inoki still considers Gamma as one of the most revered wrestlers of all times.
Having recently embraced Islam, Muhammad Hussain Inoki (formerly known as Antonio Inoki) is on a state visit of the country on a personal invitation of the Chief Minister of Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif.
Inoki arrived in Lahore on December 1t and has met several dignitaries in his weeklong visit. He was then taken to Peshawar where he was given a warm welcome by thousands of fans in the Qayyum Sports Complex on Wednesday , Dec 5th.
Inoki and his team of wrestlers entertained the spectators with their fine display of professional wrestling skills, winning praise from the crowd of Peshawarites who have long forgotten this entertainment in the bleak security scenario in the province.
Inoki lauded the arrangements and praised the warm welcome he has received during his stay in the country and vowed to launch a training academy in the country.
Inoki said that he would deliver peace message from Pakistan through the successful holding of wrestling event. “By having world’s best grapplers in action in Lahore I will be promoting the freestyle game in Pakistan,” said Inoki. “The Pakistan wrestlers of full of talent and all they need is proper training. I will dig out the talent and provide them freestyle training to the selected wrestlers so that they would compete at international level,” he added.
The 6.4 feet Yokohama native started his professional wrestling career at the age of 17 from the Japanese Wrestling Association. From the years 1966 to 1972, Inoki kept switching professional wrestling careers from Japan to United States and finally joined the New Japan Pro Wrestling and defeated WWF Champion Bob Backlund in the year 1979.
Inoki has been rated as one of the few free style wrestles who have not confined themselves to only one form of wrestling.
Inoki faced many opponents from all dominant disciplines of combat from various parts of the world, such as Boxers, Judoka, Karateka, Kungfu practitioners, Sumo Wrestlers and wrestlers.
He also challenged Muhammad Ali in 1976 where the bout ended in a draw.
Inoki announced his Retirement from professional Wrestling in the year 1996 and was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame being the only Japanese to receive the accolade.
Inoki also revealed that he has been warned not to visit the country in wake of the fragile security situation but his past visits and his old acquaintances in the country provided him the assurances.
“I have been to Pakistan on four occasions during the period from 1976 to 1984. Now I was being asked not to visit Pakistan because of security threats but I have deep attachment with Pakistan so I said that I would like to see for myself that how much dangerous this country is,” he maintained. “But everything is good here and we are enjoying our stay”.
Earlier, Inoki and the team of 10 wrestlers visited the graves of Akram Pahlwan and Jhara Pahlwan at Mohni Road, Lahore and paid homage.
Talking about his conversion to Islam, he said that he embraced Islam in 1990 in Iraq but still do not know completely about Islam but wish to know as much as he can.
Dr. Karl Gabl, the ace Meteorologist who has saved countless lives with his precise weather updates, is one of the necessary consultants on every high profile expedition in the climbing world. His anomalously accurate and spot-on weather reports has helped innumerable climbers and mountaineers to finalize their schedule and avoid unforeseen circumstances which could have easily claimed their lives.
Gabl is an Austrian meteorologist and mountaineer . He is known to the court counselor and meteorology experts for his weather reports ORF in regional studio Tyrol and its forecasts for high altitude climbers in the world.
Born on December 21st, 1946, Gabl started off as a climber and completed his training as a mountain guide. He successfully claimed several peaks in the Alps both the smaller ones as well as the bigger ones including Monte Rosa and the north walls of the Ortler , King Peak and Big pinnacle. He was also able to succesfully ski descent from Noshak, the highest mountain in Afghanistan (7485m).
Alongside fullfilling his passion for climbing, Gabl continued his studies and graduated from the University of Innsbruck in Meteorology and acquired his Ph.D. in Meteorology and Philosophy in the year 1976. He was elected as the head of regional office in Innsbruck the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics("ZAMG"). He kept the lead until he retired at the end of 2011.
Gabl’s weather reports gained immense importance with the start of Winter Alpinisim in the year 1987. Wit his precise predictions regarding the wind speed and temperature forecasts at high altitudes, he played elementary role in the success of various expeditions on the trecherous 8000ers in Himalayas and Karakorum.
Italian climber Simone Moro, considered as the finest Winter climber in the world, hailed Gabl’s predicitons during his attempt at Makalu in the year 2009 and again at Gasherbrum-2 in 2011.
Moro said while attempting for the Makalu peak in 2009,“ The weather is perfect, no clouds, but still strong wind above 7000 meters. Who say that? Karl Gabl, our forecast” guru” of Innsbruck. The weather forecast is like the faith in GOD. Or you believe in Him or not. Believe only sometimes is the worst think in Alpinism, so since the beginning of the expedition I decided to believe completely and follow the Karl Gabl’s forecast as I did since 2003”.
In his capacity as a Meteorologist at ZAMG he supplied annually 50-60 expeditions with free forecasts.
Gabl is married with two children. He lives in Innsbruck.
As the vicious Hurricane Sandy continues to pound the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and Canada, scientists and common people are driven to re-emphasize the affects of Global Warming all over the world. Scientific discussions and studies have led to the mutually agreed fact that the storms and Hurricanes are a natural phenomenon and have little to do with any changes imparted by the warming of the climate on a larger scale.
However, a very few of these scientists disagree over the fact that the fierceness of these storms have a direct correlation with the increased atmospheric temperatures all over the world.
It now appears that the forewarnings for the destructive capabilities of the Hurricane Sandy were colossally underestimated. With a death toll of 50 people, the States of New York and New Jersey have already been declared in the state of emergency and some 7 million people are facing power shortage due to the precautionary shutdown of two Nuclear Reactors in the region.
The scientific reasoning for the intensity of the perpetual storms in the region still points towards the destabilized atmospheric changes, particularly triggered by the emissions of Greenhouse Gases all over the world. There are, at the same time, a handful of experts who point towards the growing Glaciers in the Karakorum’s in Pakistan, which have confused the peace activists and Environmentalists all over the world.
The mind-boggling growth of the glacial system in the rugged Karakorum in Pakistan has attracted numerous scientists over the years, who have confirmed that the system is growing in bulk even when the neighboring glaciers in the Himalayas are following the shrinking patterns like the rest of the glacial systems in the world.
“There’s no question that Karakoram glaciers are holding their own, but exactly why that is, we don’t know,” Kenneth Hewitt, a geographer at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
A team of French scientists from the National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Grenoble led by glaciologist Julie Gardelle, used satellite images to study the mountains, which are almost entirely inaccessible. The team reported that the Glaciers in Karakorum have increased in size by 0.11 and 0.22 meters of ice each year. Their study comprised of Satellite data from the year 1999 to 2008.
One of the many logical reasons given to the increasing size of this Glacial System, is the layer of thick Moraines that cover the glaciers, providing a natural insulator from the outside temperatures.
“We don’t really know the reason,” Ms Gardelle said. “Right now we believe that it could be due to a very specific regional climate over Karakoram because there have been meteorological measurements showing increased winter precipitation; but that’s just a guess at this stage”.
The glaciers in Karakorum, the most notable Baltoro, Biafo and Siachen, are some of the longest glaciers in the world after the Polar Caps. They are not only the biggest Fresh Water sources in the Sub-Continent but have also a dire impact on the Ecology and Economy of the Countries dependent on the fresh water sources.
According to estimates, some 1.3 Billion people are dependent on the fresh waters from this Glacial System.
People, who have had a chance to visit the scenic valley of swat well before the conflict hit the region, may find striking differences on the faces and in the lifestyles of the people, in today’s Swat what is often touted as the restored valley of Swat. Land of blood red peaches and gushing rivers, swat has long been known for the picturesque beauty she beholds in her lap and has attracted countless number of tourists over the period of the time.
Formerly a princely state during the time of Indo-Pak partition, Swat decided to accede to Pakistan and later the princely status of the state was dissolved in order to merge it with the rest of the country. One of the conditions of the merger was the mutually agreed settlement that Pakistan government will allow and facilitate the enactment of Sharia (Islamic Law) in the valley. This agreement was never fulfilled, which thereby provided sufficient impetus to the extremist elements in the region who later wreaked havoc, spilling innocent blood.
Today Swat portrays the picture of a valley, which has been reincarnated after a bloody war between the Islamists and the Military. Small shanty towns of the likes of Khawazakhaila, Batgaram, Chaharbagh, Maidan, and Bahrain, now present the look of progressive bustling towns, providing ample justification that the people have taken a sigh of relief with the restoration of the order and the return of peace in the valley.
Shaving off beard was strictly prohibited by the Islamists in the region some five years ago and several saloons which disobeyed the orders were either bombed away or their owners shot down. Selling music CDs or video cassettes was banned. Girl schools or women roaming in the streets was a far-flunged scenario. Today, the valley and all the small towns in the region are back to normal conditions, something of the sort of which prevailed some ten years ago.
But the picture isn’t as poetic as it sounds.
You may find clean shaved men running their day-to-day businesses and one can often spot women carrying out the grocery shopping or little girls marching to schools, but the people have a pint of skepticism in their eyes. A tourist from any other part of the country becomes the centre piece of all activity the instant he or she decides to stop over in any of these towns. The skepticism is followed by an air of disliking perhaps for all the pain and anguish the people have faced and find it convenient to vent out the anger by hating the visitors-for all what they can do for the moment.
Despite of the disliking, however, which remains mild enough not to be categorized as hatred, the locals do realize that these people have little to do with whatever happened and that they still constitute a major chunk of the capital that flows in the valley as domestic tourism.
Fruit exports have surged after the devastating floods of 2010. This year alone, experienced a record surge in domestic tourism in the valley. Hotel industry, transporters, shop-owners, dry fruit sellers are enjoying the influx of capital which they had only known almost a decade ago.
Foreign tourists are still not allowed to venture in the valley, something which hopefully will change shortly.
Every creation has its pros and cons. It all depends on how we decide to use them. The dogma holds good for almost everything including the dreaded drones which have brought death and destruction to the tribal belt of Pakistan and continue to do so till this date.
The technology, essentially American, is now being employed to capture footage of extreme sports including the mountaineering and rock climbing. The Swiss Expedition which scaled the notorious Trango Towers in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of the country in July this year extensively used a similar technology to capture the footage which would have been impossible otherwise.
“People are going to see footage from the Karakoram that no human being has ever seen,” said Corey Richard, a photographer and videographer from Lake Tahoe, California, who was on the expedition.
The expedition was a joint project between outdoor clothing and equipment company Mammut, and Dedicam, a firm that specialises in using remote-controlled helicopters to shoot video. Their goal: to document world-class mountaineer David Lama and his climbing partner Peter Ortner as they climbed Trango Tower.
The question of recording live footage of such magnanimous climbs has long been a matter of consideration for the photographers and climbers alike. Although helicopters are not always an option for such high altitudes as Karakorum, even at low altitudes they not only churn up unwanted clouds of dust, are expensive beyond measure and can be fatal for the climbers pushing them off balance at times.
The Drones, which cost only a fraction of the amount used for hiring a Heli, now come with improved maneuverability, excellent recording capabilities and are hassle free in carrying and assembling on spot.
“The main challenge was that the air is much thinner, and we didn’t know how the flight controls would work with this and the propellers and motors,” said drone operator Remo Masina, from Lucerne, Switzerland.
Remo brought in two sets of remote-controlled helis, one with four rotors and the other with six. He was able to surge the aircraft to almost 2000ft on the Trango to spot climbers edging their way up.
Karakorum Range in Pakistan is known for gigantic peaks some of which remain unclimbed to this date. The peaks in Karakorum are not only some of the most difficult to climb but offer such breathtaking sights which are found nowhere else in the world.
Lama and Ortner said climbing the legendary Pakistani mountains was an amazing experience.
“Here there are so many mountains, and so many difficult mountains, and mountains that haven’t been climbed,” said Lama.“That’s probably why the Karakoram is known as paradise for us.”
Swat, once a hot-bed of militants and religious extremists who poured in the valley from the adjoining Agencies in the north, has now been restored comprehensively following a brilliantly-executed operation by the Pakistani military.
The last two years in general and the current season in particular, received an overwhelming influx of tourists in the region, never experienced before. Notwithstanding the fact that every entering vehicle is scrutinized before entering the valley, interrogated by a check post almost every 50 kms, it was something the new generation of tourists were willing to undergo to quench their thirst and witness the brilliance of the valley.
Unlike Naran-Kaghan valley, the hotel and tourism industry in the valley was not able to develop with the passage of time and although the valley has only a handful of quality hotels to offer, they are good enough o provide the basic amenities to the visitors who come driving and riding from the bustling metropolises of the country.
An average hotel charges approximately 1000 PKR for a double-room during the off-season while charges for a similar room soar to a whooping 6000PKR during the peak season. The season kicks off with the announcement of summer vacations in schools and colleges and lasts till the end of August, providing a healthy window of three months when the hotels are able to make enough to sustain the winter stretch of low turnout.
The valley holds some of the picturesque glacial lakes in the country, including the famous Mahodand Lake seated some 35 kms from Kalam, deep inside the valley. Other prominent but less explored lakes include the emerald green Kharkhari Lake, Spil-Khor Lake, Kandol Lake alongside the gigantic granite structure, the Falak-sair peak in the Hindukhush range.
Trudging along the Swat River, the road was completely washed away by the floods of 2010 and the current road, dug out a few meters away from the old one, is rugged and tiresome. Yet, this was not enough to deter the enthusiastic tourists from heading towards the scenic valley which has remained off-limits for almost five long years.
To cite a recent example, one of the hotel owner narrated the ordeal of a family stuck in a 20km long traffic jam during the Eid holidays this year and had to return back to Lahore as the Hotel owners had to cancel their advance booking in wake of late arrival.
The valley is accessible throughout the winter season as the road is kept clear by the machinery provided by Army and the hotels will also be entertaining the guests through the gruesome winters in the valley.