Ziarat ( Balochistan): White smoke coming out of metal chimneys on houses covered in snow is visible from all over the Ziarat valley.
As the year’s first snow fall lands softly on the Juniper forests in Ziarat, the poor people of the valley are desperate for fuel to keep themselves warm as the mercury plunges below 6 degree centigrade.
But there is no fuel to burn in Ziarat, except the endangered juniper forests with trees as old as 3000 years.
A peep inside the houses reveal stacks of Juniper woods stored by families to guard them against Ziarat’s biting cold.
It takes a juniper tree 4,000 to 5,000 years to grow to a full size. So slow is the growth, a tree grows only an inch a year, according to forestry experts.
Samad Khan, 54, keeps his new born baby warm with fire from Juniper trees. He burns the wood in a metal stove, its exhaust pipe poking through the snow covered roof of his house.
“Though we have gas, the pressure drops with the snow and cold,” says Samad Khan. “We are forced to burn whatever we can because the cold can kill my babies.”
The endangered Juniper forests of Ziarat, believed to be the second largest in the world, are on the UNESCO’s world heritage list. UNESCO has added it to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
“A couple of months ago, President Manoon Hussain and Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif visited the Ziarat valley but none of them announced any plans to preserve this natural wealth,” Tariq Khan, 28, a university student hailing from Ziarat told News Lens.