The beautiful Chitral Valley of Pakistan

The beautiful Chitral Valley of Pakistan

The beautiful Chitral Valley lies on the west side of River Kunar, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 430 kilometers from Islamabad Pakistan. Chitral District is the largest district in Pakistan’s province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and covers an area of 14,850 km2.

The Chitral valley is surrounded by the immense Hindu Kush mountain range, which rises 7,709 m above sea level. The main valley of Chitral is 354 km long and ranges in width from 4800 m to barely 180 m at some places, while the side valleys are much narrower.

Chitral Valley offers a diverse range of attractions including one of the highest peaks in the country, lush green valleys and many glaciers. Chitral further divides into two subdivisions; the Chitral upper and the Chitral lower.

Tourism Attractions in Chitral Valley

Chitral Valley attracts tourists from all over the country, with its artistic handcrafts and precious stones. The entire area is decorated at the end of the summer with oodles of flowers and fruits. Chitral’s popular fruits are peach, apricot, damson, mango, pomegranate, raisins, and pear. Chitral is also famous for its almonds, apricot, pistachios, and walnut dry fruits.

The height of the mountain ranges from 3500 feet to 25263 feet at Terich Mir in the extreme south of Arandu. The district consists of many of the most prominent valleys, the largest of which is the Chitral-Mastuj valley, extending from Broghil in the Pamirs to Arandu on the southern tip of the border with Afghanistan.

There are various peaks over 20,000 feet in the district, with an altitude of 25263 feet, Terichmir being the highest. The Chitral-Mastuj valley, approximately 320 kilometers long, is surrounded by the Hindu Kush range to the west bordering Afghanistan, the Hindu Raj range to the east and the Shandur-Karakoram range in between.

The climate of Chitral Valley

The district’s tall and vast mountains stop the path of monsoon rain; thus, the entire region is very dry and vulnerable to drought. For the most part, summer and autumn stay dry and not favorable for developing vegetation. Chitral hardly receives 10 to 25 mm per month of rain.

Maximum and minimum temperatures dropped in Chitral, respectively, between 37 and 21. The weather remains very harsh and cold in winters, leading to road blockages and the loss of properties and even lives.

Chitral has a distinctly continental climate. In summer, it is hot, ranging from very hot in the lowlands to mild in the highlands and cool in the higher elevations. With regular rain and snowfall, spring weather is unpredictable.

Most of the valleys in winter are in the grip of northern winds and snowstorms. For the month of January, the extreme minimum temperature reported at Chitral stations was -0.9o C.

Rainfall in Chitral Valley

The rainfall in the district of Chitral is between 250 and 1000 mm. The precipitation of winter and spring is very significant because, first, it provides moisture to the growing season of the rabbi and, second, the whole year of streams and rivers relies on the fall of snow in these seasons.

Just around 32 percent of the overall annual rainfall is in the summer and autumn. It is obtained from thunderstorms, which also cause torrential rains and cause significant flood damage. During July and August, dust storms also occur, particularly in the afternoons.

The population of Chitral Valley

The peoples of Chitral belong to more than a dozen different communities and speak more than 14 different languages. The material and non-material culture of Chitral bears traces of Greek, Iranian, Mongolian, Tatar and Turkish influences as a result of its unique location and historical relations with Central Asia and Europe.

The population of Chitral stands at 318,689 (162,082 males and 156,607 females), according to the 1998 census. These figures show that since the 1981 census, the population has grown at an average rate of 2.5 percent annually, as compared to 3.3 percent growth during the 1972-81 period.

Approximately 80% live in remote and dangerous areas and only 20% live in the urban areas of Chitral and Drosh City. The population has now crossed 400,000 in 40,000 households spread across different valleys extending from Arandu in the south to Boroghol in the north for several hundred km.

Agriculture and Economy

Traditionally, Chitral is an agricultural society where people produce wheat/maize for their livelihoods. Most people live on subsistence farming, though land holdings are becoming increasingly smaller.

Nearly 80 percent of the population is estimated to have small pieces of land that are scarcely adequate to grow crops and fruits. In most parts of the district, the fruit is produced and locally consumed. In the single cropping zone located in Lotkoh, Mastuj, Mulkhow, and Torkhow tehsils, about half the cultivable landfalls.

The estimated average per capita income in 1997 was PKR 9,543 per annum. Over the last decade, it may have increased; however, about 40 percent of the population is feared to live below the poverty line.

In order to look for seasonal jobs in winter and return in spring to resume agricultural activities in spring, a noticeable number of people, particularly from the upper parts of Chitral, go to the various cities in the down country.

Chitral Scouts

Chitral Scouts, which accommodates over five thousand individuals, is another source of income. In addition, numerous government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector are making a major contribution to the economy of the country.

The remittances given by a small number of people working in foreign countries, particularly in the Middle East, are another source of income. Individuals employed overseas often make a very small contribution to the economy by remittances.

Natural Resources and Tourism

Chitral is rich in natural resources, including minerals, medicinal plants and suitable areas for cash crops such as potatoes and fruits, despite its poor economic conditions. Biodiversity is a big opportunity that can also be deployed to make it a long-term contributing field to Chitral’s economy.

Tourism promotion may also make a major contribution to the overall development of the region. As far as infrastructure is concerned, the area of Chitral is accessible via Lowary Pass from Dir, via Shandur Pass from Gilgit, and via Nawa Pass from Muhmand Department.

In different periods of time, main roads leading to sub-tehsils were built by the government. With the assistance of the Chitral Areas Development Project (CADP), a semi-government body, the road from Chitral to Booni (75 km) was mixed in the 1990s. With the help of the local government and NGOs in collaboration with communities, the link roads connecting valleys and villages were built.

According to a survey (Chitral District Government and IUCN 2001) to date, roads extending over 680 km have been constructed, of which 177 km have been metalled. In addition, several bridges were built in various valleys and villages with the help of local governments and NGOs.

Telecommunication

Telecommunication services in Chitral are expanding rapidly. PTCL extended the contact network all over Chitral within a short period of time. There are 13 exchange units today that provide citizens in remote parts of Chitral with contact facilities. The PTCL-introduced wireless loop system has brought a huge improvement in information sharing.

In addition, a range of mobile network providers has galloped through most areas in an attempt to provide full coverage and to have more customers, of course. The secret to upgrading human capital is to broaden the availability of education and to raise standards.

Education

The basic education level on offer is currently unsatisfactory, while there are deficiencies in the higher education emphasis. The growth in the education sector to date does not accurately represent people’s needs. The standard of education suffers from factors unique to each locality, as schools are poorly designed, teachers are not inspired and monitoring is inadequate.

In the meantime, low enrolment rates can be due in part to a lack of knowledge of the value of schooling, but this is not the only explanation why few people pursue academics in the case of young men, including those already enrolled in school or college to drop out and instead seek jobs.

Men are forced to take up low-paying, unskilled jobs without the benefit of vocational skills or professional training, which only helps to pit them deeper in a cycle of poverty. Among women, the inadequate number of middle and high schools for girls is the most serious restriction to expanding education.

Lack of Safe Drinking Water

Another problem faced by the Chitral District is the shortage of safe drinking water. People used to drink water from springs, streams, rivers, lakes, and glaciers before the tap water system was introduced.

There was a time when, in the winter, the snow melted at homes to get warmth. However, as a result of interventions made by government agencies and NGOs, things have changed with the passage of time. Apparently, much of the population has access to tap water, but the facts of the land are distinct.

In several instances, people who used water schemes have returned to the conventional way of using water because they were unable to support such ventures. The communities place the responsibility for maintenance on the implementing agencies, while the implementing agencies consider it the responsibility of the communities.

A major drinking water project for the population of the town of Chitral was launched a decade ago by the local government in Chitral with technical and financial help from the German government. Water was carried from a spring 20 kilometers from the town where 30,000 people live. Later on, it added about 10,000 beneficiaries.

In order to make drinking water available to communities, the local government and other NGOs have also contributed. Women have historically been responsible for fetching water and, as a consequence of all the initiatives listed above, the pressure on women has decreased to a greater degree, which has a positive effect on their lives.

Despite all these reforms, a greater proportion of the population continues to have no access to drinking water, let alone safe drinking water.

Health

The key service provider in the health sector in Chitral is the Government of Pakistan. There is a shortage of doctors and other staff at THQs and BHU hospitals in the district. In view of the health services available, the emergency situation in the event of a catastrophe seems to be very difficult to handle.

According to figures, one doctor for 8,510 people is available and one nurse for 26,666 people. This is a very troubling situation, let alone an emergency situation, even in normal times. In order to meet the needs of people living in these mountain regions, there is a strong need to improve the health sector by providing the requisite personnel.

Accessibility to Chitral Valley

As a regular flight service from Islamabad to Chitral is easily accessible. Additionally, it will take approximately 12 hours by road from Islamabad to Chitral to reach the valley via AH1 / M-1 and N-45 with numerous stopovers. The best time to visit the valley is April through October.

Accommodation

Accommodation is a crucial factor in assessing tourism viability. Every tourist wishing to visit Chitral will be welcomed with both economical and clean accommodations. The most well-known accommodations are listed with brief descriptions as follows:

PTDC Motel

Located in the main city, this is the ideal place to lodge for visitors. The level of service is outstanding, and it includes Wifi and other important facilities.

Mountain View Hill

The Hotel is located in the main Shahi bazaar. The fares are very economical but the cleanliness of the rooms is not compromised. Several other hotels are located along the main bazaar parallel to the PTDC motel and are considerably smaller.

Read also: The Silk Route festival in Gilgit Baltistan

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