Palas Appeal plans recovery of farming
With winter tightening its grip on the Palas valley, much of the promised relief aid is already in place or on its way. A total of 320 'winterised' shelters equipped with stoves have reached households living at high altitudes and Rab Nawaz, coordinator of the joint BirdLife-WWF Pakistan Palas Conservation and Development Programme, says relief organisations are committed to delivering 1,000 more. Five medical camps have been set up, and five more are planned.
A combination of rough terrain and worsening weather has made it impossible to compile a comprehensive report on damage and loss of life. But data gathered by members of the Palas Conservation and Development Federation, working with the local police in some of the more accessible communities, indicate that at least 79 people have died, 291 houses have collapsed and 3,140 more have been extensively damaged.
Many livestock were lost during the earthquake, killed by falling boulders and collapsing houses. "Livestock rearing is the mainstay of livelihoods in the Palas Valley, and has traditionally provided the people of Palas with security against uncertainty in crop production," said David Thomas, BirdLife's Head of Site Action. "We need to minimise further losses of livestock caused by disease and poor nutrition, so that a healthy herd is in place to ensure rapid recovery in the spring. We want to provide on-farm services such as vaccination and veterinary care of the available stock. There's an urgent need for fodder, since much of what was collected locally prior to the earthquake has been lost, and the mountainsides are still unsafe for grass collection."
"We have lost a lot of friends and relatives of staff, some of them very dear to us. More than half of all the houses have been destroyed and most of the remainder are uninhabitable." —Rab Nawaz, Coordinator, Palas Conservation & Development Programme
If communities are not to depend on food-aid and other assistance next year, they will need immediate assistance with recovering their farmland. Most cultivated land is on steep slopes. In many places the terraces have collapsed and need immediate repair if winter crops such as wheat are to be sown before March. Traditionally this activity would be carried out by the family under a 'hashaar', a community-based, unpaid collective effort. "In the current situation many of the displaced families are not in a position to take part, and so the most effective way to re-construct the terracing is by hiring labour," Rab Nawaz says.
Labour and expertise from outside the valley will also be needed to rebuild the damaged infrastructure, including bridges, bridle paths, water supply systems, watermills and mini-hydroelectric plants.