Palas relief effort shifts to shelters and roads
Tents, warm clothing food and medical assistance are now reaching the people of the Palas Valley, where hundreds of families were left homeless following the earthquake which struck South Asia in early October. With their immense self-reliance boosted by the capacity of recently-created civil society organisations, the people of the Valley are taking control of their lives and communities again.
The priorities of the relief effort have changed to providing winter shelters for families living above 2,000 metres, and reopening the road and bridleways through the Valley, so people can reach food and medical assistance, and resume their livelihoods.
Money raised through BirdLife Internationalís Palas Earthquake Appeal is being channelled directly to a dedicated local bank account for maximum effectiveness. Around 500 winter shelters are needed to protect families from sub-zero temperatures and snow that can reach 4-5 metres deep. The shelters have built-in cooking ranges and can be lined with earth, vegetation and other materials for insulation. Manufactured locally, they cost around £160 each.
The road into the upper Palas Valley was blocked by rockfalls during earthquake and after-shocks. Though short, it provides a vital bridgehead for the distribution of relief supplies. The arterial bridleways which thread their way through the valley have been severely damaged, and skilled engineers will be needed to blast away the debris and repair the tracks across the precipitous rock faces. These tracks provide valley residents with access to supplies and medical help, but also enable them to engage in trade.
Around 500 winter shelters are needed to protect families from sub-zero temperatures and snow that can reach 4-5 metres deep
A great part of local trade depends on 'non-timber forest products' such as mushrooms, honey and herbs. Morel mushrooms and medicinal herbs can provide 50 percent or more of household income. Rab Nawaz, who runs the joint BirdLife-WWF Pakistan Palas Conservation and Development Programme, and also takes care of World Pheasant Association affairs, says people quickly returned to gathering these products after the earthquake. "This shows the vital role non-timber forest products play in the economy and livelihoods of local people after a disaster like this, when livestock and crops have been damaged and lost."
The survival of the intact forest where these products are harvested is the result of BirdLife-WWF Pakistanís fifteen years of work with local communities, which has led to the formation of a coalition of Valley organisations, the Palas Conservation and Development Federation. The PCDF has also played an important part in the organisation and distribution of relief supplies, and its networks of local expertise have played a vital role in focusing the relief efforts of UN and international government agencies and NGOs.
The World Pheasant Association is among major donors to relief and reconstruction in the Palas Valley Appeal. The UK Governmentís Department for International Development has provided money for staff and vehicle running costs.