As winter ends, Palas reconstruction begins
Winter is almost over in Pakistan's Palas Valley. "Itís fortunate that it hasnít been so severe as last year, or many more people would have died," said Rab Nawaz, who coordinates the conservation and development work of BirdLife, WWF and the World Pheasant Association in the Valley.
But 20,000 people are still living in the open, in tents and makeshift shelters, because their houses have been destroyed or severely damaged.
Without the work of the Palas Conservation and Development Federation, the coalition of Valley organisations brought together during 15 years of BirdLife-WWF activity, a far worse humanitarian crisis might have developed.
"One of the success stories has been the emergence of the PCDF, taking the lead in securing and distributing relief material," said Rab Nawaz. "They have proved to the community that they have an important part to play in the development of the Valley."
PCDF coordinated the delivery of supplies from many different NGOs and agencies, ensuring that it reached the remotest communities.
"Where the forest had been cut, landslides were much worse. Fortunately, the local federal government has said that there will be no cutting of the forest for reconstruction." —Rab Nawaz, Coordinator, Palas Conservation & Development Programme
Money raised through BirdLife Internationalís Palas Earthquake Appeal is being channelled directly to a dedicated local bank account, for maximum effectiveness.
The money is being spent on the reconstruction of critical infrastructure, including bridges, bridleways and hydro-power 'mills'. This work will begin in earnest in April, when the weather has improved. Bridges will need to be in place by the time meltwater swells the mountain streams, which at present can be crossed on foot.
Although conservation work has been suspended while the relief effort goes on, Rab Nawaz says thereís no evidence the biodiversity of the Valley has been affected by the earthquake.
He says the people of Palas are aware that their forests saved them from the kind of devastating landslides suffered in deforested areas, where whole chunks of the mountainsides crashed into the valleys.
"Where the forest had been cut, landslides were much worse. Fortunately, the local federal government has said that there will be no cutting of the forest for reconstruction."