SWAT - Sofia has finally done it. For the past couple of years, she had been trying to revisit the beautiful vale of Kalam, which she had visited in her adolescence, but she could not do so as the road between Bahrain and Kalam had been completely destroyed by the floods. Not just the flooding, but militant insurgency had also affected the regional infrastructure badly. But now that the 50 km stretch has been rebuilt, Sofia and thousands of others can easily access Kalam. The visitors are happy; the locals even more so.
Kalam is about 100 km away from the main Mingora City and its road links with Swat had been in terrible condition since the floods in 2010. Thousands of tourists from all over Pakistan and foreign countries throng Swat and Kalam every year but the damage to the roads had affected the numbers.
Since tourism is a major source of livelihood for the locals, this decrease in the influx of tourists affected the locals of Swat especially the upper regions of Bahrain, Madyan, Kalam Kohistan adversely as these people have a lot invested in tourism. For the past couple of years, accessing these areas had become a distant dream for tourists. It took people up to 4 hours to travel from Bahrain to Kalam which are hardly 35 km apart.
After the insurgency, the valley’s infrastructure lay completely demolished and people had bare access to basic life facilities. The rehabilitation process was uneven, the administration was inadequate and the people were in economic distress due to tourism coming to a virtual standstill because of militancy.
But after the army operation, when the people were just beginning to pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuilding their destroyed abodes, the entire area was unfortunately hit by floods and the situation went from bad to worse. Such was the scale of devastation that an emergency had to be imposed in the area and the military machinery had to chip in the rehabilitation process. Army helicopters were used to transport people to safe places and soldiers on the ground tried to provided the affectees with food and medicine. But with the resilience of the people, the help of the federal and provincial administration machineries and the help of the army, these problems were overcome. Now that the road link between Swat and Kalam has been restored with the help of the army, things are set to take a turn for the better. Recently, Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ameer Haider Khan Hoti visited Swat and said that the NHA had already signed a contract to build a permanent road as soon as possible.
In the meanwhile, the restored road link will serve well people like Sofia who are yearning to visit Kalam.