THE CUSTODIAN COMMUNITIES OF CHITRAL GOL NATIONAL PARK, CHITRAL
The custodian communities of Chitral Gol National Park reside in 11 core and 2 buffer zone villages. Each village is represented by individual Village Conservation Committee (VCC) for male and Women Village Conservation Committee for women. The population dynamics and other demographic features of the VCCs are given below.The VCCs/WVCCs are of two types. The first category consists of 11 VCCs located in proximity of core zone CGNP. The core zone VCCs/WVCCs are primary stakeholders of CGNP and have traditional centuries old usage rights over the park resources.The second category represents buffer zone VCCs/WVCCs. CGNP has two buffer zones VCCs in the southwest and northeast. Rumboor valley is located in southwest of CGNP and shares boundaries and resources with CGNP. While Avirate Gol valley is located in the northeast of CGNP on the western bank of Lotkoh River.Although the buffer zone villages have no resource usage rights in the core zone of CGNP, yet they are important for conservation of key wildlife species beyond the notified boundaries of the park.
Socio-economic Profile of the custodian communities of CGNP:
The custodian communities have been residing in the peripheries of Chitral Gol National Park for centuries. By virtue of their proximal location the communities have been enjoying resource usage rights in the park area as well.
Location & administration:
Chitral Gol National park and all custodian villages are located in the main town area (Chitral City) of district Chitral between. Two of the core villages, namely Dangarekandeh & Mughlandeh, fall in the jurisdiction area of Union Council of Chitral-I, while rest of the nine (9) villages are located within Union Council Chitral-II. The buffer zone villages of Rumboor and Avirate Gol fall in UC Ayun and Shoghoor respectively.
|S#||Name of village/hamlet||Total # HHs||Total population||Literacy rate|
|Core Zone villages:|
|Buffer Zone villages:|
The custodian communities around core park area reside in 13 villages (including 11 Core Zone villages and 2 Buffer Zone villages) with a total population of over 30,000 individuals.
- Livelihood means:
Agriculture, livestock raring, on-farm labor and localized trade are chief sources of livelihood means for almost 60% of the local inhabitants. Employment (private & public) and off-farm labor (skilled and unskilled) constitute 15 percent of the livelihood means in the target communities. Of the total population 5% percent of the local communities depend on forest and other resources of livelihood for subsistence livelihoods.
- Livestock Population:
In core zone village of CGNP mostly cattle dominate the livestock number, followed by goats and sheep. However, due to shrinking of agriculture lands the population of livestock in and around core park zone is on the decline.However, the buffer villages of Rumboor and Avirate still maintain sufficient numbers of livestock including both goats and cattle. Population dynamics of livestock in core and buffer zone villages of CGNP are given in the following table:
|Buffer Zone villages|
In core zone villages cattle dominate the livestock population while in buffer zone goats dominate the overall population.
All 11 villages located in proximity of core zone of the park area fall in double cropping zone. Wheat, maize, rice, pulses and seasonal vegetables are grown mainly to supplement in-house requirements. Only few families deals in vegetables trade. Per Chakuram (3.37 Chakuram=1 Acre) production of wheat is about 260 kg. The maize production per Chakuram is about 320 kg. The buffer zone villages fall in single cropping zone. Due to harsh climatic conditions and lack of access to modern farming practices per Chakuram production of cereal crops in buffer villages is far less as compared to core zone villages. The main agricultural products of buffer include wheat, maize and millet. Potato and fruits are the main cash crops of buffer zone villages.
- Domestic fuel:
Fuelwood is the dominant source of domestic fuel. Almost 80% of local population depends on fuelwood for in-house requirements. Fuelwood contributes to 60% to fulfill domestic fuel requirements in core zone villages. While in buffer fuelwood contribution to domestic fuel requirement is nearly 90%. The dynamics of fuel sources and their contribution to domestic fuel requirement is elaborated in following table:
- Ethnic composition and languages:
The custodian villages mostly inhabited by Chitrali or Khow communities. About 75 % population of the custodian villages belongs to Chitralies of different tribes, 20% pathans, 2% Kalash/Nooristani and 3% Afghan refugees and others.Khowar (Chitrali) is the primary medium of communitcation for almost all the local resident in Chitral. In buffer areas of the park especially in Rumboor Klash War and Nooristani languages are also used.
- Hosing pattern:
In the past two decades construction of concrete building with excessive use of tin sheets has taken momentum, especially in villages located around the park zone area. As compared to recent past nearly 40% of the houses now of RCC type. Average number of rooms in majority of the houses are 3 to 4.However, in both buffer villages nearly 70% houses are still of Kacha type, with average rooms of 2 to 3.
- Conflicts and conservation issues:
According to the law of the state prior to its accession to Pakistan all lands located above the water channels were properties of the state, therefore the area now comprising the National Park was state property of the then state of Chitral. In the 1880’s it was set aside as a royal hunting reserve. Historically the rulers imposed strict control on poaching. The violators were arrested, fined and their cattle confiscated in lieu of hunting Markhor or the Urial. Some of the inhabitants of the adjoining villages were granted concessions for grazing, some records also show that concessions were given to the employees of the ex state for grass cutting and grazing.
Chitral was merged with Pakistan in 1969 resulting in disputed ownership of Chitral Gol; even the forest working plan of 1964 does not depict Chitral Gol under any category. The ex rulers continued to control and draw benefits from the park even after merger with Pakistan. The strict control on hunting of Markhor by the ex rulers kept the population of this species vibrant and numerous in the now park area. However after the merger in 1969 and loosening of control of the Mehtar and replacement of customary laws by statuary laws, indiscriminate hunting brought this animal on the verge of extinction. The Government of the NWFP declared the area a Wildlife Sanctuary through the then Commissioner Malakand on 23 December 1971; and a National Park in 1984.
At the time of merger with Pakistan, the President of Pakistan through an order provided list of all private properties of the ex ruler. The list shows agricultural lands located inside Chitral Gol as his property. This stand was also accepted in the report of the Land Disputes Enquiry Commission 1971. The ex ruler filed an appeal against the declaration of Chitral Gol as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1975 and declaring only 73 chakoram (chakoram was a land measurement unit of the state of Chitral that approximately equals to one fourth of an acre) land located inside the park as the Mehtar’s private property. After a lengthy legal process the supreme court of Pakistan finally ordered the deletion of the word 73 chakoram from the official notifications. Consequently, two different interpretations of the court order emerged; the Wildlife Department interprets this deletion as its ownership of the entire park while the Mehtar views it as accepting his title on the entire park.
In 1994 another entity emerged as a party in this litigation in the shape of the eleven custodial communities (who since early 1900s have been active part of self initiated conservation and resource management activities inside the park through their representative forum called Park Committe). The claim of these communities is that their rights and privileges inside the park be acknowledged. Historic evidence shows that the Mehtar rehabilitated the residents of five villages namely Balach, Shaldene, Rehankot, Chewdok and Zargarandeh. He however does not acknowledge any right to these villages except those granted in writing to specific persons who served the State. The case of the remaining six villages viz., Shahmirendeh, Jang Bazar, Thingshen, Mughlandeh and Dangrekandeh however appears different as these are old established settlements. The Mehtar is of the view that the six old communities used the park resources to a limited extent, while those who worked for the Mehtar were given concessions free of cost. In no circumstances, any community was allowed hunting in the Mehtar’s aera. However, the communities are of the view that they have historic user rights in the park area and that the court should safeguard their rights in any decision.
The Forest Department extended scientific management to the district in 1958 when a Range Forest Officer was posted in the then State before its formal merger with Pakistan. After merger, all forests except the CGNP were taken over by the Government of NWFP and were declared as Protected Forests in 1975. The first approved Working Plan 1964-1988 however, does not reflect Chitral Gol in the list of forest areas under the control of the Forest Department.
 Government of the North Western Frontier Province. Report of Dir, Swat and Chitral Land Disputes ENQUIRY COMMISSION PART III Vol. I, 1973
 personal communication 2007