As floods hit, Pakistan’s Kalasha people fear for their way of life

CHITRAL: For Akram Hussain, unprecedented monsoon floods that drenched his Hindu Kush mountain valley this year were a danger to more than just homes and crops.

His 4,000-strong Kalasha people, who live in three remote valleys in north-west Pakistan, preserve an ancient way of life, including animist beliefs at odds with Pakistan’s dominant Islamic state religion.

His 4,000-strong Kalasha people, who live in three remote valleys in north-west Pakistan, preserve an ancient way of life, including animist beliefs at odds with Pakistan’s dominant Islamic state religion. That has led to threats by the Taliban, who call them kafirs, or non-believers.

Outsiders, looking for arable land, also have increasingly moved into their high mountain valleys.

Now, worsening extreme weather linked to climate change is making efforts to preserve the old ways even harder, the Kalasha say.

“Our culture and language were already under threat and now these floods have devastated half our valley,” Hussain said.

Torrential rainfall in July in the district – an area that usually falls outside Pakistan’s monsoon belt – sent floodwater pouring down steep mountainsides, damaging infrastructure in the valleys of Bumburet and Rumbur.

Birir, the third valley inhabited by the Kalasha, was spared.

The floods damaged tourist hotels, shops and houses near the nullah (mountain stream) on the valley floor and swept away crops of ripe maize and orchards full of fruit trees.

“This winter is going to be very difficult for us,” Hussain said.

Around the world, extreme weather and rising seas linked to climate change are presenting a growing threat not just to lives and homes but to cultures, from nomads in the drought-hit Sahel to Pacific Islanders who fear the loss of their entire nations.

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