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Wither indigenous institutions -letter

The Chitrali community has remained vulnerable to socio-economic challenges and natural hazards throughout its history. They have witnessed destructive earthquakes, Massive land erosions and avalanches, unremitting snowfall (even for 5 days), frequent droughts and dangerous floods. All such natural events have resulted in socio-economic havoc for the poor people.

In the recent Flash floods and Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF’s) events, as we saw a numerous damages to the lives and properties which resulted in drastic change in economic condition of the rural communities of Chitral. In the flood prone areas, the cultivated lands, pipelines, road networks electric poles etc have been washed away. Most of the flood prone communities were compelled to leave their houses which were going to be hit by the cruel waves of flood. The affected peoples are gathering their resources and are trying to cope with the natural calamity. At the end of the day they return back lonely without any support from their co-villagers.

Chitrali society has indigenous social institutions within the community for collective action and management of inter village affairs. “Graam" and "Mone” are the indigenous social network of communities within a village comprised of a certain number of households.  In general “Graam” consists of households that depend on one mosque for their religious obligations and “Mone” is the cultural obligation to help each other. Trust and mutual action is the binding elements of this system. The conventional and agreed rules of gram are binding on every member. A village may have one or more Grams depending on size of the village.

This gram system used to be the most important mean for disaster risk reduction. When ever any kind of challenge was faced by any portion of the community, the nearby community get united in the form of Gram and join hands to hands with the effected people in relief opperations. This process was continued in turn by the gram of other adjoining villages till the damages were minimized and a routine village life starts. So all the relief opperations were done on selfhelp basis and no moderator was consulted.This shows that the Gram and Mone System in Disaster management has always played a prominent role in disaster risk reduction.

After the interventions of Non Government Organizations (NGOs) in Chitral, the Gram system was upgraded and modernized and was named as Community Organizations. These NGOs through the community organizations introduced the idea of 50 50 share which means the NGO will provide its share only if the community can also provide its share and services. The main role of these community organizations is to uplift the socio economic condition of the community by increasing the economic status of households. This concept got very popularity and the community realized the importance of money for sustainable development but, the only drawback of this theory is that it lacks social brotherhood. Now though the hazard hit village starts relief operations but the adjacent villagers are reluctant to help them without any wage or financial reward. The role of Gram is dwindling may be due to the so called modernization.

Now the question of the day is why the 'graam' and 'mone' system didn’t played its role effectively in recent flood events? Who is responsible for that the local elders who didn’t motivate the community for social work? Or the Non Government Organizations (NGOs) who taught the locals the 50 50 concept? Or the changing social environment? All these questions need to be addressed. --Imran Elahi, Danine Chitral, 23 Aug 10.

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