Month: August 2011

Gilgit-Baltistan: Wild life-the precious asset of GB

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HUNZA (APP): Director Khunjerab National Park Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Walayat Noor said on Wednesday that all available resources were being utilized to save the wild life of the area.

Talking to APP he said that wild life were the precious assets of GB and we had completed our many projects with the help of local people of the area. He said that a ban had been imposed on illegal hunting of wild life in all the districts of GB and we had deputed committees to keep an eye on illegal hunters.

Gigit-Baltistan:Upgradation of Schools in far flung areas of GB

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Diamer—Executive Supervisor schools National Education Foundation (NEF) Rashid Mehmood Mughal Monday said that steps were being taken in order to up-grade standard of education in far-flung areas of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Talking to APP he said we need assistance of our teachers because better education policies can only be implemented with their cooperation. “We have to focus on education for progress and development in the area”, he said. Answering a question, he said that administration of SAP schools has been handed over to NEF in GB and we have completed all the necessary surveys regarding students enrolment and teachers information.—APP

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB Governments plans to repair all dysfunctional water filtration plants

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Gilgit: The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government plans to repair all dysfunctional water filtration plants in Gilgit.

“We are assessing the number of water plants which are non-functional so that they can be repaired,” said Gilgit-Baltistan Minister for Water and Power Muhammad Naseer Khan on Wednesday.

He added that his department had been directed to ensure necessary repair of the plants for their utilisation by the public. “The filtration plants established in Gilgit, Amphey, Jutial and Baseen will be repaired under the project,” he added.

Former president Pervez Musharraf had launched several water filtration schemes across the country to ensure the provision of clean drinking water to the people. Under the schemes, a number of filtration plants were set up in G-B. However, due to non-technical staff and lack of professional commitment, these plants went out of order, according to official sources.

“There are over two dozen filtration plants in Gilgit alone, which are either out of order or their water is unfit for consumption,” an official in the G-B Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told The Express Tribune.

The two water reservoirs in Jutial and Barmas, from where water is supplied to the entire area, are extremely unclean, said residents of the area.

According to a report prepared by the G-B EPA, the water taken from most of the filtration plants in Gilgit is unsafe for drinking. The report also points out that the staffs deputed at the plants are not trained to handle the equipment properly.

 Courtesy:  The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan & China to undertake new development projects in GB

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ISLAMABAD – President Asif Ali Zardari would visit China on August 29 to further consolidate strategic partnership with Beijing.
According to official sources, President would meet the Chinese leadership to exchange views on matters of bilateral interest, geo-political situation in the region and regional security. Sources said that the President would also sign few MoUs to launch new projects in Pakistan. Both countries are likely to undertake new development projects in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Courtesy: The Nation

Gilgit-Baltistan: Huge Investment Potential of GB

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ISLAMABAD (APP) – Gilgit-Baltistan has great potential for investment in different sectors: mining, minerals, gems, tourism, water & power, hoteling and hospitality.
Huge investment opportunities also exist in agriculture and medicinal herbs sectors. Climate and abundant water resources make it ideally suitable for marvellous growth of both these sectors. Private sector has the ability to write new success stories in Gilgit Baltistan, where immense potential is yet to be exploited.
Prospects for foreign investment are equally high and the investors could launch ventures in different alluring sectors. Meanwhile, Indonesia has expressed desire to extend maximum cooperation to Gilgit-Baltistan government in its efforts aimed at bringing progress and prosperity in the area. The Indonesian government is keen to help Gilgit-Baltistan government in exploration of coal and mining. Indonesia has the expertise in these areas and the sharing of technical skills could create a win-win situation. Agriculture is one of the potential areas for investment in the shape of production, preservation.
and marketing of quality fruits and vegetable seeds.
Gilgit-Baltistan has no match in the world and only because of little value-addition facilities these sectors could not grow.
Organic Farming has a very huge potential for the investment because of the availability of a very hardworking human resource. Hydro energy, dry food, and precious stones are the actual treasures, which if thoroughly tapped, will change the fate of Gilgit Baltistan and its natives as well.
Gilgit Baltistan has all opportunities to become an investment hub and the present government is evolving new policies to facilitate both the local and foreign investments.
Unlike the past, the present government had given a serious concentration to the power generation, infrastructure development, education and health to alleviate the sufferings of the people that had been facing multiple problems for the last many decades.
An era of development had been started in Gilgit-Baltistan with serious work on Basha Dam, detailed engineering of Monji Dam and in the shape of expansion of Karakorum Highway.
Apart from tourism, mining, food preservation, the area has a very huge potential for cement and herbal sectors therefore the business community should come forward to explore these opportunities that offer a huge revenues.
The present government has given a development package to the area with a view to facilitate the investors and all measures were being taken to turn the area an investment hub.
South Korean investors are interested in power generation and this investment could overcome the shortfall of 80MW of the region. Developing of roads and infrastructure in Gilgit-Baltistan are also on cards as investors are keen to invest in construction of all weather airports in Gilgit and Skardu.
Investment in Gilgit-Baltistan would not only be beneficial to that particular area but it would also help strengthen the economy of the country.
Board of Investment is working for evolving a tax free policy for investors very soon.

Gilgit-Baltistan:1.5 Mega Watt Electricity Project for Astore

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ASTORE: A power project of 1.5 Mega Watt has been approved for upper region of Pareshing Mushke village, Gilgit Baltistan (GB) to meet the increasing energy requirements of thearea.

Executive Engineer Water & Power Fayyaz Alam while talking to APP on Tuesday said the location of Mushke village has been approved by the Planning and Development department and the project will be started by an open tender soon.

He said the estimated cost of this project is Rs. 20 million and it will take three to four years to complete.

Fayyaz Alam said that Assistant Chief Planning & Development department Israr Ahmed has approved the location and asked thecompetent authorities to further proceed.

He further said another power project of two Mega Watt in Shogora will be launched next month-APP

Gilgit-Baltistan:Hospitality sector needs to improve its image- ILO Study

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The hospitality sector in Pakistan needs to improve its image generally, and as an employer specifically, by providing better options in terms of policies, benefits, career plans, opportunities and remuneration keeping in mind gender roles.

The conclusion was made in a baseline study conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to establish gendered situation analyses of the hospitality sector. The primary objective of the study was to identify trends of the hospitality sector in Pakistan; working conditions; extent of decent employment currently prevailing; existing and emerging opportunities; skills shortages and corresponding training needs and mapping of major stakeholders.

The geographical focus was on the Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi, Rawalpindi/Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan districts. Overall, the study shows that the hospitality sector needs to work towards cultivating a decent work culture. Working conditions within the sector are identified with low wages, poor or non-existent career structures, informal recruitment practices, unsocial and long working hours, and difficulties in recruitment and retention resulting in high levels of labour turnover.

The hospitality sector, ranges from hotels and transportation to recreation and entertainment, and tourism, and as part of the service industry in Pakistan, it contributes significantly to the country s economy (service sector s share of GDP was 59 per cent in 2009-2010). The study says that careers in the sector are diverse and allow professionals to work across the country, providing employment to employees with diverse skills and qualifications. However, with the prevailing recession and low tourist activity the sector growth has slowed down to being almost negligible.

The findings indicate that the sector is gender segregated both with respect to working conditions and opportunities. Consequently, occupational segregation is prevalent in the sector with women concentrated in caring or glamorous roles. The study mentions that organisational structures and environments need to be reformed and sensitised to reduce this phenomenon and provide equal opportunity to all.

It shows that gender roles of women are considered through the provision of pick and drop facility, maternity leaves and effective implementation of sexual harassment and discrimination policies however, there is need for further support in terms of provision of benefits and training and career opportunities.

Nationally, opportunities in hospitality and associated sectors vary regionally; some industries are more successful in one region, while another industry in another district. However, in larger cities (Islamabad, Lahore, etc.) new hotels are being developed and new establishments; restaurants, cafeterias and caterers are hiring the staff at management levels positions.

Emerging opportunities are also linked with what is considered appropriate men s work and women s work. There is strong demand of females for specific jobs such as GROs/CROs, front desk, marketing and sales, HR and training, etc. Limited international opportunities exist for professionals while based in Pakistan, but a considerable number of younger individuals in the sector have moved abroad to seek more secure work and gain experience, resulting in a brain drain and exacerbating recruitment challenges.

The requirement from the hospitality industry to deliver high-quality service and products, coupled with the labour intensive nature of the market, puts pressure to recruit and retain well-educated and trained professionals. Currently in Pakistan, the stock of skills (existing skills base available to enterprises) in the hospitality sector does not match the demand; and the flow and formation of skills (the formation and upgrading of skills on a continuous basis) is not optimally geared to remedy the situation or to meet the requirements of the near future.

The study says that career opportunities need to be promoted especially for women. These opportunities need to be formally announced in a transparent manner. As a policy measure, elimination of occupational segregation needs to be supplemented with greater investment in skill enhancement of women through education and vocational training an important component of human capital.

In addition, basic organisational changes and workplace strategies are required to facilitate further progress for gender equality in the sector. Efforts designed to de-segregate employment, through increasing level education of women and their entry in non-traditional fields will have little impact because employment practices, recruitment and training, correspond to the long-established interests of employers. Any effort directed toward de-segregation would clash with employers real and self-defined interests, unless and until employers interests and equal opportunities are aligned, The study illustrates the need for increased representation of female in Unions so that their rights can be advocated through these platforms.

Courtesy: The News

Gilgit-Baltistan:US funding dams in Pakistan

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“We are considering doing more in the sector,” said the department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland, as media reports suggested that the US would also support the giant $12 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam project. – File Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: The United States has provided support to complete the final phases of two hydroelectric dams in Pakistan: Satpara in Gilgit-Baltistan and Gomal Zam in South Waziristan, the State Department has said.

“We are considering doing more in the sector,” said the department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland, as media reports suggested that the US would also support the giant $12 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam project.

Ms Nuland noted that Pakistan had requested international community’s support for development of the Diamer-Bhasha project.

“We recognise that such a hydroelectric project would help meet many of Pakistan’s long-term energy and water needs, as well as advance social and economic development,” she said.

“We are considering how we can best support Pakistan’s request, as are other bilateral donors and multilateral financial institutions.”

The US, she said, had not yet made a final decision on this giant project but noted that providing support to such projects was part of a broader signature energy programme in Pakistan that the US announced in 2009.

“We continue to work with the government of Pakistan to determine how best to use US civilian assistance,” Ms Nuland said.

If the US agreed to support the Diamer-Bhasha dam, it would be the largest civilian aid project the US has undertaken in Pakistan in decades.

Asked if the US was concerned how its support for these projects would affect its ties with India, Ms Nuland said the United States had long supported development projects that enhance the daily lives of people throughout the region. “In doing so, we always take into account a project’s potential regional impact,” she added.

Courtesy: Dawn

Gilgit-Baltistan: On the top of world

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A cup of steaming cappuccino, the roar of the Shigar river, the fast breeze made by the gushing water, a huge walnut tree nearby, massive mountains on three sides and the lively company of friends – it reminds me of William Wordsworth eulogizing “a book of verses, a bottle of wine, a shady tree and you beside me” Wordsworth refused to desire anything else if he possessed all these blessings. And this is precisely what I go through while perched on top of the Shigar Fort, the Palace on the Rock, in high-up Baltistan.

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Huge Poplar and Cedar trees cover the lush-green Shigar valley at the bottom of huge mountains, offering a complete contrast to the topography of the region. Even the road from Skardu, the administrative headquarters of Baltistan, to Shigar stands out for the contrasting imagery: once across the Skardu river, you travel across a desert of white glittering sand which gradually disappears behind the craggy and curling mountains before descending into the Shigar valley. From a distance, the Shigar valley strikingly looks like a sprawling oasis, with the mighty Shigar river crisscrossing the vast riverbed to the right of the valley, which has a predominantly Shia Muslim population. (The people here recently voted Azam Khan into the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly.) The valley offers a stunningly contrasting landscape – rocky barren cliffs, cultivated terraces, and orchards all around.

You travel across a desert of white glittering sand which gradually disappears behind the craggy and curling mountains

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The valley is practically the gateway to some of the highest mountains in the world, including K-2, Mashabrum 1 and 11, Broad Peak, and Tango Tower. It is also the staging post for the Baltoro mountain range, and used to be the most favoured destination for trekkers from all over the world.

The valley is practically the gateway to some of the highest mountains in the world

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If the Shigar Valley is the crown of the Karakorums, the Palace Residence is certainly its centre-piece. Also known as Fong-Khar, or the Palace on the Rock, the site has been restored by Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP-P). It is indeed a unique site in the middle of an oasis; a cultural heritage guesthouse where you experience a rugged 17th Century version of luxury, painstakingly restored to the original, though equipped with all the modern amenities and services of a good hotel.

The complex at Shigar comprises the 400-year-old Fort-Palace and two more recent buildings, the “Old House” and the “Garden House”. The former Palace of the Raja of Shigar has been transformed into a 20-room heritage guesthouse, with the grand audience hall serving as a museum of Balti culture and featuring select examples of fine wood-carvings, as well as other heritage objects.

While hosting guests, the Palace also offers a lot of Balti history and culture – a blend indeed of the old and the new.

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Azam Khan belongs to the Amacha Dynasty, which claims to have ruled the area for 33 generations. His ancestors brought artisans, carpenters and stone-carvers from Kashmir for the construction of the Shigar Fort-Palace, and that resulted in a combination of Kashmiri-influenced carvings and Balti architecture.

It is extraordinary to be so close to nature in its naked form, and to not have to think of the workaday stresses back home.

Almost two kilometres upwards of the Skardu valley lies the sleepy Khaplu town, ahead of the Kargil sector, where Indian and Pakistani forces fought their most recent battle over Kashmir in 1999.

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Khalpu, too, boasts another archaeological heritage: the Khaplu Palace and Residence, also restored by the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP-P). This palace is from 1840 and belonged to the Raja of Khaplu and was raised after the Sikh Dogras conquered Baltistan and ordered all Rajas to build new residences. Located at a height of over 8,000 feet above sea level, the palace is now back to its past glory, restored with care and passion, with no cement used in the construction or restoration, which took almost six years. This palace also offers several cozy rooms, equipped with modern amenities such as internet, television, clean hot and cold water and round-the-clock electricity.

Azam Khan belongs to the Amacha Dynasty, which claims to have ruled the area for 33 generations

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The Northern Areas – both Gilgit and Baltistan – have many similarly precious archaeological heritage sites, though many are in a lamentably shambolic state. One wishes the government agencies responsible for our heritage would demonstrate the same spirit and commitment as the Aga Khan Cultural Service.

[box13]And now some good news: it is amazing to see the tourist traffic that places like Shigar and Khaplu can generate; the restoration or repair simply opens up the place to inquisitive outsiders. Not only does it become a source of business and employment – it becomes the engine of growth in far-flung places where people don’t even think of going.

So if you want a break from stressful city life, or are fed up with the rigorous daily grind of business in crowded city centers, why not check out Shigar and Khaplu for a picnic on top of the world?

The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and author of the book “The Most Dangerous Place – Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier email:

Gilgit-Baltistan: Construction of Diamer Basha Dam- Government departments strongly need to improve their business process

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FOR the last many years we have been hearing that the government is planning the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam and actual work on the project would start soon. Even the previous government said work will begin soon after the ground breaking ceremony was performed in April, 2006 by the former President but one feels depressed that progress has not been made to start the actual work.

Though it is encouraging that the Federal government has provided Rs 3.9 billion to Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments to acquire land but the process is taking too much time. No major water reservoir has been undertaken since the completion of Tarbela dam in 1976 and even if physical work starts on Diamer-Bhasha Dam this year, it would take atleast ten years to complete meaning that the country would continue to suffer from shortage of water during winter and from floods during the monsoon season. Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs have already lost more than 5,000,000 acre feet storage capacity due to sedimentation,almost equal to the original combined capacity of Mangla and Chashma reservoirs putting sustainability of existing irrigated agriculture of Pakistan in serious jeopardy.

Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and we have the World’s fastest growing population. Due to lack of large river regulation capability through sizeable storages, the country is already facing serious shortages in food grains. Given the present trend, Pakistan could soon become one of the food deficit countries in the near future. Therefore, there is a dire need to build storages for augmenting agriculture production. The Diamer-Bhasha project would also create lot of job opportunities, particularly for the local and development of massive infrastructure leading to overall socio economic uplift of the area.

In addition the 4500MW of hydropower will provide the required electricity at affordable price. We would therefore urge the Prime Minister to personally supervise the progress on the project and ensure that when the government completes its present term, there is visible progress on the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam as that would be a major contribution of his government to the country and its economy.

Courtesy: Observer