By: Sadia Khalid , Phd Education , Youth and Climate Activist
Fairy Meadowsalso said to be the پریوں کا چراگاہ. It was named by German climbers (German Märchenwiese, “fairy tale meadows”) and locally known as Joot, is a grassland lies under the shadow of sleeping beauty-Nanga Parbat. This is situated in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Its altitude is about 3300 meters or 10,800 feet above sea level. Usually people accessed this point through the Raikot bridge. The Raikot Bridge has located 80km from Gilgit and 400km from Islamabad.Undoubetly, it is the “Heaven on the Earth” with its lush green scenery alongwith the abundance of trees.
( A view of Nanga Parbat peak from the Fairy Meadows )
The length of the jeep trek towards Fairy Meadows is fifteen-kilometer-long starting from Rakhiot bridge on Karakoram Highwaytill Tatu village. The dangerous and narrow gravel mountain road from the bridge to the village is only open to locals, who provide transportation to visitors. They charged 8600 for the two-way round In 2013, the World Health Organization declared it the second-deadliest road.
( Thick Forest along the trekking )
Afterwards, it takes about two to three hours hiking by a five kilometer trek Fairy Meadows.The trek is stony, sandy and barren till the mid, which takes one and half an hour to two to reach till the end. There are some local dabas operated by the locals in the mid-way and then the trek gets gradually steep in ascending but more beautiful. There are entwining streams, inside the forest of Tattu. This valley is also termed asRaikot valley, it is also having the glacier originating from the Nanga Parbat and feeds a stream that finally falls in the Gilgit River on the highway. Since 1992, locals have been operating the different hotels. Local shops and the camping sites in the area
( Massive construction of local hotels at Fairy Meadows)
This peaceful, serene and calm mountains always mesmerizes the tourists. It is also famous for wildlife, including the endangered species of the “Brown Bear” musk deers,markhors, snow leapards, wolves and some species of birds. The forests having Piniswallichiana, Picea, AbiesPindrow trees, smithiana, junipers, birch and willow dwarf shrubs. It was also declared as a National Park in 1995 by the government which is not still implemented by the government. As the people of Tatu village claimed to own the forests and surrounding lands.
( The dead fallen logs from trees in the forest)
The total population of the Tatu village is about 4500-5000. The village named as tatu which means boiling water due to hot water spring. In 1868, people purchased the land in this region and thus they did not let government to declared it as national park. All the hotels were constructed with dead fallen wood along with an underground sewerage system.Unfortunately, there are no set policies of contructing hotels or managing it effectively by local government. The locals are building the hotels as per their need and choices without considering the forest management. They were also less considerate about the water and waste management. Still, there were no traces of sign boards for guidng the tourists and dustbins along with trekking path and even at meadows. Recently, local government started a cleaning activity with hotel owners to get rid of plastic waste. But, one- time activity is useless , until the hotel owners, tour operators, guides and local tourists took the iniative of clean and green fairy meadows themselves.
( Deforestation and bulk of construction from locals)
The people are self-reliant in terms of food production. The local people are involved in following occupations like cultivating agricultural lands, livestock,hotel industry, transport, porters and small shops. There were less job and business opportunities in nearby cities for these people. There is only one primary school upgraded to the middle level with the help of the Univeristy of Lahore. Regrettably, there is no high school or college, teachers’ training center or vocational centers to make people financially stable. The literacy rate is low in the region due to poor economic conditions and lack of awareness regarding the education. The people needed to move to nearby cities in Chilas or Gilgit for higher education.
( A local primary school operated and funded by University of Lahore)
Only one government dispensary is functioning in village and one is functioning at fairy meadows for tourists which could not meet the needs of the locals in case of emergencies. It is really hard for the patient and his family to reach the main city with difficult paths. Other challenges faced by them includes the lack of electricity, cellular signals, forest management and financial independency. So, it may apprehended that these villagers are still living in the dark ages without electricity or cellular signals in this digital era.
The village is among the few areas of Pakistan which followed the set patterns of rules decided by the Jirga controlled by elders or respectable people in the community. It is great dilemma for locals that could not use their voices to highlight these challenges and problems. All the young people of this community who have the access to the social media platforms are usually busy in promoting the unmatched beauty of these mountains and thus less vocal about their actualissues.
There is immediate need of updating the level of the primary school to hgher secondary along with vocational centres. The government may also put emphasis of introducing teacher-training for school teachers for improving school education. The different vocational programs for girls and boys may help them learning technical skills and running their home-based business. The community engagement may also proved useful for forest and wildlife management. Therefore, it is concluded that government and local people must come on one platform to discuss their problems , so government could able to assign the tasks to designated departments with allocated funds for immediate solutions. With the effective local administration and community involvement, fairy meadows wont lose its exquisiteness, tranquility and timberlands in the coming years.
About the Writer
Youth and Climate Activist
Founder – Climate Education Warriors