When Common turned Green

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Tarbela dam is one of the largest water reservoir, in the northwest of Pakistan. It is surrounded by mountains, with high biodiversity. A number of plant and animal species can be found in surrounding areas. Tarbela water reservoir and surrounding mountains are source of recreation for local communities. The peoples often go for fishing, hunting, boating and for hiking. The migratory birds are the additional feature of reservoir, and every year 1000s of Siberian birds visits, every winter.

  Across the Tarbela water reservoir, there is a large piece of land. It was a common land, shared by a local tribe for many decades. This common land was shared by the members of tribe for grazing their cattle’s and for the collection of  fuel wood, until 1970s. This  particular shared piece of common land was in addition to their individually owned agricultural land. The agricultural land was divided into parts and was owned by individual person/household.  The shared common land was mainly consists of a chain of mountains, with some plain part. In 1970s, the population of surrounding area was small, and common land always had enough resources to provide fuel wood and grass for the cattle’s. The tribe was self sufficient, by means of food production and many other resources for their living.

The concept of hunting wasn’t so common and surrounding mountains were full of wild life, and common land was covered with forest (mainly small shrubs and small wooded plant)

 In  1974, the construction of tarbela dam was completed, dislocating local tribes. They were moved  next to tarbela water reservoir, where a town was built for dislocated people. The above discussed tribe was one of them. Their agricultural plain land was drowned however, common land was still out of water. The direct access to this land was cut off by water and boats were only source to get in there. However. some other tribes were moved to the opposite side of  the tarbela water reservoir with direct access to this land though they don’t have right to use it. The absence of its owner tribe, encouraged the peoples living in the surroundings of   that land to exploit its resources, especially through hunting.

The francolin bird specie was almost diminished locally because of hunting.

Picture: Francolin, A native bird specie in north west of Pakistan.

Though the members of  owner  tribe were visiting time to time, but diminishing birds were never noted, as for them, it wasn’t some thing economically valuable. However the trees were always checked thoroughly.

 As it was mentioned that, this land was a common land shared by whole tribe, in 1998,  a news was heard that few members of tribe have sold whole forest. It was a shocking news for  many peoples and when, it was proved, a local meeting (Jirga) was called to resolve the issue. According to local tradition, it was headed by few old and experienced peoples. The members who sold the forest argued that they have right to do so, and next time when the forest will grow up, some one else can sell it, or we can share the money. However , many young member (mostly educated) of tribe were not agreed and the issue was resolved after giving warning, don’t repeat it. In 2004, same thing happened again.

  This time, community meeting (jirga) was held, and it appeared that there were three groups. One was favouring that after every few year forest should be cut and sold. Money can be distributed. However there were two other groups that were insisting that common land should be divided and every one will take care of its own land. Finally, in 2004, common land was divided ( how?  It was a complicated process, and many factors were taken into account, especially historical usage of land ). 

 In 2005, one of the group started plantation, in addition to existing shrubs. Initially 1000 plants were planted and it was agreed that every year, plantation will be carried out. As it was hilly area, beyond the water reservoir and hardly accessible, a small room (dera) was built and a guard was appointed there to take care of plants and animals, too. Hunting was strictly banned. The other group, that was popular for deforestation also did the same.. A competition was start and now, a lush green forest can be seen with fearless birds flying around.

                                                                  

Tarbela (Pakistan): Pictures taken on September, 2008. (two years after plantation).

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