Kohistan was only opened to the outside world with the completion
of the Karakurum Highway in the mid 1970s. However, valleys
such as Palas still remain remote from modern-day Pakistan.
Consequently, even prior to the devastating 1992 floods, infrastructure
in Palas was primitive. No roads penetrated the interior and
the few ‘kacha' roads were often closed by land-slides.
Access to almost all villages was only by foot, with the more
remote villages lying 2-3 days' trek from the road-head. Few
ways were suitable for pack animals, most arduous, even perilous,
for people. Obstructed by bluffs, the arterial Bar Palas footpath
crossed the torrential Musha'ga several times. Bridges, traditional
cantilever structures of wood and stone, were often dangerous,
vulnerable to seasonal floods and often had to be rebuilt.
Paths and bridges were built and maintained by the community,
using the simplest implements, without external assistance.
This basic communications network nonetheless provided vital
passage for the daily and seasonal movements of people and
livestock, for access to goods and services, and for the export
and sale of local produce.
Palas has a largely traditional subsistence economy with
a very low development status. Most Palasis, of both landowning
and non-landowning groups, live in poverty.
There is little existing infrastructure in Palas, almost
all construction is ‘kacha'. There are two roads -
Pattan-Sharial Nallah(c. 22km), Pattan-Sherakot (c. 20km)
- but most settlements remain between one and three days'
walk from the road-head. Pathways, including the arterial
Bar (Upper) Palas pathway, are mostly in poor condition
and arduous. There are several primary schools, but teachers
are rarely present. There are a few dispensaries in Palas,
but medical supplies are very limited; the nearest doctor
is in Pattan. There is no tapped drinking water, no electricity
or gas supply. There is a single Forest Rest House at Sherakot,
Agricultural infrastructure in Palas before the floods
was equally primitive, and consisted of ‘kacha' irrigation
channels cut into the earth or traversing cliff-faces in
hollowed logs, often several kilometres in length, and simple
water-mills for grinding the staple maize grain.
As mentioned previously, the 1992 floods in Palas destroyed
land and villages caused great damages to the already inadequate
infrastructure. All foot-bridges and a 40 km stretch of
the arterial Bar Palas footpath were destroyed, together
with intakes of all irrigation channels on major rivers
and c.70% of the valley's watermills. The damages led to
a temporary food crisis, undermined the fragile subsistence
economy, and precipitated the departure of many families.
Department plans to build one BHU; the Education Department
has 13 schemes for Primary Schools (1993-1995); Forest, Agriculture,
Irrigation and Hydro departments have no projects in progress.
A number of basic water supply schemes are under development.
At district level, the Kohistan Area Development Project
(KADP) is under preparation. PE&D Department has proposed
that the PCDP be implemented as a precursor to the KADP, but
due to certain reasons and to perhaps, prevent duplication
of activities, the KADP is not expected to operate in the
The proposed ADB-funded Forest Sector Project (FSP) is likely
to select the neighbouring valleys of Dubair and Pattan as
project areas, and has noted the possibility for collaboration
with PCDP. There are no other major donor-funded programmes
known to have a specific focus on Kohistan, although the National
Rural Support Programme (NRSP) had originally identified District
Kohistan as a priority area. Meetings have been held between
PCDP and NRSP.
are two roads under construction, one leads from Pattan to Sherakot
in Kuz Palas and the other leads from Pattan to Ziarat in Bar
Palas. The total length of these existing paved and unpaved
branch roads is around 30 km connecting the local Palasi population
between Pattan market and the Karakurum Highway. The construction
of Karakurum Highway has ushered an era of cultural, social,
economic, agricultural and environmental change.
The existing roads are narrow and often affected during rains.
The local C&W office and the Kohistan Development Project
have prepared plans for extension of road links for another
40 km, but due to shortage of Government funds and discontinuity
of KODEP the proposals have not been further pursued.
|Traditional Road /
Path Maintenance System
used to make new footpaths themselves and collectively repair
existing tracks. But during previous years this practice has
almost faded away in lieu of misappropriate spending of the
government funds in the area. The track leading to Muro pastures
in the Bar Palas area is still maintained by the rural populace.
Other than construction and maintenance of footpaths the Palasi
community expects that its the responsibility of the government
to initiate development project and interventions.
Palas is connected to the outside world with an RCC bridge across
the River Indus. A pedestrian suspension bridge was also constructed
previously during the Wali of Swat rule, but was destroyed by
local communities in order to regulate livestock intrusion and
carriage of grasses and firewood out of Palas. During the floods
of 1992 most of the bridges in the interior valley were washed
away. As relief work assistance in aftermath, the Himalayan
Jungle Project constructed about ten suspension bridges in cooperation
of the local communities and the NWFP Wildlife Department.
in the valley are quick and inexpensive means of transportation
across rivers. Two trolleys have been fitted over the River
Indus, one by the NWFP Government. and the other one by the
HJP. Another three have been installed by the HJP at bridge
construction sites for carriage of workers and material.
|Foot Paths and Bridle
|The most important
footpaths in Palas access villages and pastures such as Sheryal,
Muro, Ganja, Pulbela and Ledi. In Bar Palas the main pedestrian
path was damaged during the major floods of 1992 and it still
remains in a poor condition. The valley is linked to four different
valleys through these passages such as Kolai via Gabir, Allai
via Sheryal- Ganja- Kunari- Ledi, Jaglot via Kundal-Sartey,
and Kaghan via Palandran. All these passes are closed during
in which the mill-stones are turned by means of a water-powered,
side-shot mill-wheel, are vital for milling of the staple crop
maize in Palas. Mills are necessarily located near to a river,
from which water is taken along a mill-race (or channel) to
power the mill downstream. Local topography determines the location
of the intake (which must be adequately protected against normal
summer floods), alignment of the mill-race (which often has
to negotiate steep slopes, and cliff-faces, for distances of
1 km or more) and situation of the mill.
In Palas valley, water mills are established close to the
villages and owned by individuals or are communal. In some
places water mills were washed away during 1992 flood and
have been rehabilitated by HJP with the participation of most
local communities in Bar Palas.