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KHANPUR DAM AT RISK Alarming Threats of Silt & Water Shortage


By Wassi-ur-Rehman

LOCATION OF THE DAM: This beautiful lake/dam is 48 km from Islamabad on Taxila-Haripur Road. It is an ideal place for day trip/picnic, boating, angling and watching migratory birds during winter. Khanpur Dam has been constructed in a narrow gorge on the Haro River. It is located 8 miles north of Taxila on the Haripur road, about 25 miles from Islamabad. It is a multipurpose project which supplies drinking water to Islamabad and Rawalpindi and irrigation water to NWFP (110 cusecs) and Punjab (87 cusecs). The Catchment Area: The Haro River comprises of four main streams and their small helping nullas. Which are?

• Lora Haro: its source is in the Murree Hills. The waters of Northern Murree Slopes. Lora town, it suburbs, Phulla, Rupar, Kohalabala and the surrounding areas fall in to this stream.

• Stora Haro: It starts from the base of Nathiagali Hills. The waters of Western slopes of Nahiagali Hills, Southern slopes of Nara Hills, Stora, Massah and Jabri fall in this stream.

• Neelan Stream: its base is in Nara Hills. The waters from some parts of Nara Hills, villages of Neelan Valley (Hajia,Chamnaka, Riala, Bodla etc),Mountain of Danna Nooral, Mountain of Dubran and some area of U/c Langrial fall in this stream.

• Kunhad Stream: This stream comprises of the waters from U/C Langrial, Old U/C Gandhian, Mountain of Siribang, Mountain of Dubran and the surrounding areas.

• Other Small Nullahs and waters: The waters from other small nullas of the different areas including Jab, Hally’ Desera, Najafpur and other villages of the region also fall in the Haro River. The map of area where these streams join together is given below. Forests Of The Region(catchment area) The following categories of the Forests are found in the catchment area of said Dam.

• Reserved Forests: The Reserved Forest starting from New Khanpur Town, and scattered up to Nathiagali and Muree, along the banks of River Haro. This Forest covers a large area. All these Forests are the property of Govt of Pakistan. These forests are called “Beer” in the local language.

• Guzaras: These forests are scattered all over the region, are owned by the people, but under the control of Forest Department. Mainly these are the Pine Forests.

• Mehdoodas: The lands of people were taken by the Forest Department for Forestation/plantation about 50 years ago, in some of the villages of the area. Nobody planted even a single bush in the area.

• Private Forests & Forms: There are some private Forms and Forests in the area.

• Graveyard Forests: Large and old Graveyards almost in every village have become thick forests.

Vulnerability of these Forest to Destruction.

All these Forests are being ruined by the Smugglers, Herders, Grazers; Forest Fires, and other different ways. People of the area are also involved in the destruction of these Forests. They collect fuel wood, timber for houses and selling, fodder and graze their live stock. All these factors have nearly destroyed the forests. The trees from the graveyards are being sold to by new lands for extension in the graveyards. The most degraded area is U/C Langrial, where all the hills are bare and slopes are steep, trees and plants are in rare quantity. The green cover is nearly vanished all over the area. The related paragraph from the report of an Environment Expert of WWF P is given below. Threats to Natural resources The people heavily depend on natural resources for their livelihood. Locals critically threaten forests, rangelands and wildlife through over exploitation and mismanagement. People use to collect fuel wood, fodder, timber and medicinal herbs from the scattered forest patches and graze their livestock on rangelands throughout the year. The ever-increasing population has been exerting tremendous pressure on natural resources causing deforestation, habitat destruction and slope degradation. Consequently, the forest cover has totally vanished leaving bare steeps with accelerated soil erosion and run off, which ultimately check recharging of the perennial springs and create water shortage in the area. Transhumance, particularly the nomadic intrusion into the Beer forests during winter season is another escalating threat to the local resource base. Gujars coming from Kaghan and Kashmir valleys stay illegally in the reserve forests with their herds for quite long periods. Locals are of the view that the grazers often bribe the forest guards and seek permission to graze the reserve forestlands. Illegal hunting of wildlife both for subsistence and commercial motives, common in the area has seriously threatened ecologically significant wildlife species. Grey goral, barking deer, Wild cat and Common leopard are at the verge of local extinction. Nomads not only deplete rangelands but also pose threat to wildlife, especially predators. They use to poison predators in retaliation against depredation on livestock, which often results in massive genocide of the wildlife, especially the scavengers like vultures and jackals. Ninety-five Jackals poisoned at a time during 2004 is a worst example of mass destruction by herders in the village. Sometimes nomads also give poison to local shepherds, which further increase threat to wildlife of the area. It was also told that a Common leopard cub was killed recently when found near a hamlet. Nomads and local grazers lit fires to burn unpalatable forage, which Unrestricted?ultimately burn forests and rangelands to ash. Conclusion deforestation has totally degraded the forest cover and has left nothing except bushes in the rangelands. Contrarily demand for fuel wood, timber and fodder is The newly established FDC / UNHCR plantation is?increasing day by day. High surface run off is not only eroding the fertile?threatened for fuel wood. land at an accelerated rate but also decreasing water seepage into soil. Consequently, the perennial springs are getting dry and shortage of drinking Illegal hunting of wildlife and?water has become a crucial for existence. birds both for subsistence and commercial objectives has pushed local species to Overgrazing by nomads in reserved forests?the verge of extinction. has Poisoning of wildlife by nomads?deteriorated the vegetative cover of the area has caused a scavenger’s catastrophe in the area, which cataclysmically The Forests and Wildlife departments are?influencing the prevailing ecosystem. least bothered to protect the biodiversity and the fragile mountain ecosystem of the area. Threats to the Dam: There are few main threats to the dam due to Deforestation and Degradation of Land in catchment areas. These main threats will consequently rise in serious forms in coming four to five years, if not taken into account. 1. Shortage of Water: The forest cover has totally vanished leaving bare steeps with accelerated soil erosion and run off, which ultimately check recharging of the perennial springs and create water shortage in the area. As the River Haro depends on the waters of these springs, therefore the water level in the river will fall causing Shortage of water in the dam in next few years. 2. Increased Siltation Rate: As the green cover all over the catchment area is reduced to minimum, the slopes have become steeper, land degradation rate is fast, and land sliding is increased. The mud and stones flow down with rain’s water and fall into the river, ultimately increasing the Siltation rate into the dam. The river becomes reddish brown and full of mud, when ever it rains. 3. Iron Miners and Stone Crushers: Some Stone Crushers and Miners working at the edge of the dam, in Surajgali, Khoimaira and surrounding areas are also trying to fill to the dam with their wastes. Their wastes of one week equals the silt brought by the river it self in one year. Appeal to the Concerned Authorities and People of the Area: All the concerned authorities and the people of the area are requested to think over the matter and start collective efforts to save this Natural Treasure and a valuable source of water i.e. The Khanpur Dam. The shortage of water in the said dam will result in a crisis of drinking water in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The Forests are threatened with extinction, and once these vanish completely, they can never be reestablished again. Now it is the time to start work for the rehabilitation of the forests and the biodiversity of the area, otherwise the whole system will be destroyed.

Prepared By Wassi-ur-Rehman Organizer Dubran Welfare & Conservation Society Dubran Teh & Dist. Abbottabad