Zoodkhun in Chapursan Valley, due to its difficult condition of access, preserved most of its authenticity and its community values until today. Expected improvement of communications, development of a Pakistani middle class, increase in foreign visitors might lead to deep changes which should be monitored to contain a cultural and patrimonial alienation.
A village still staying out of the beaten tracks although being open to the world
A few decades ago, materials for building Zood Khun-Shitmerg high school were brought by yaks. Now, still remote but daily linked, by a “cargo-jeep”, to Sost on the Karakoram Highway, via a three-hours trip on a narrow and perilous road, Zood Khun is a peaceful and preserved place. The current Sost road is not accessible for trucks or urban vehicles, then goods or heavy materials traffic (mostly with tractors) is not that big. Numerous satellite antennas can be noted in the village. However, phone and internet connections are almost non-existent. Some parts of life remain based on a self-sufficiency basis. Practices are, nevertheless, slowly changing. Moreover, the vast majority of the population being perfectly fluent in English makes the diyor ready for international visitors.
A local production to label
As part the article: “Zoodkhun, Chapursan Valley, a life environment determined by altitude and remotness”, it was presented how Chapursan Valley could find benefits in establishing its own label with products from certified origin and already existing organic conditions of production.
A heritage to preserve
Traditional tools and fixtures become obsolete. It is desirable to document this heritage for future generations. Otherwise, specific mountainous rural modes of operation and know-how will be lost. A collection and documentation work should be launched in line with what is already done for local music and for Wakhi language.
It would be advisable to provide support by creating an eco-museum in the Chapursan Valley. The best would be to display it inside a traditional building. Through individual or group projects, school pupils could be involved. These girls and boys are particularly enlightened thanks to a mixed, multilingual and good level of education.
In such a scenic territory, visits of painters, filmmakers and photographers from outside could be encouraged, subject to the fact the visual authenticity is maintained. These artists would give, in exchange to the hospitality received, a part of their works to the future museum. Doing so, they would contribute to the international notoriety of the valley. Who knows, Chapursan might become the Pont-Aven school of the XXI century?
Anticipating a wished but inevitable tourism which has to be turned into favor of local communities
In any case, with the inevitable improvement of communications and with the growth of the Pakistani middle class, Zood Khun will, soon or later, face a much wider tourism than today. It is necessary to anticipate it so that it can come in an eco-sustainable and responsible way as well as in the interest of the native women and men of the valley.
There are places farther south than the bottom of the Hunza Valley, such as Naran, or even Saif-ul-Malook Lake and Babusar Pass which show where lack of anticipation and management leads to:
- flashy aggressive non-traditional or slum-type constructions,
- advertising explosion,
- glittering illuminated signs,
- waste invasion,
- land appropriation by companies or wealthier external people with a different culture,
- dissemination of firearms,
- penetration of fundamentalists,
- exodus and/or marginalization of local populations,
- women eviction from social life,
- dereliction of local communities…
These examples are to be avoided. In contrary, the project set up in Altit village, medium Hunza Valley, though not completely duplicable, shows how it is possible to look for solutions taking into account a human dimension in connection with environmental and heritage concerns.
Bernard Grua, Nantes, France, January 7, 2020
- This article is in extract of a paper published by Bernard Grua on his blog: “At the knot of past empires: Zoodkhun, a Wakhi village in the high northern mountains of Pakistan”
- All pictures are © Bernard Grua and cannot be used without his written approval.