Almost 70 km in length from Domelee(Jhelum) to Bharpur(Kallar Kahar) and 40 km wide from Lila to Dharab river, the hilly area sieged by these terrains is known as Mayo salt range named after Lord Mayo, viceroy of India who once visited this salt range. History of salt mine located in salt range goes back to the Great Alexandar’s time, who once passing with his troops during Indian compaign in 320 BC had stopped here because neither he nor his troops but his horses had started licking salty rocks. And those horses were the discoverers of salt range. Mughal rulers trotted very salt in Asian market for first time then the Sikhs took over its control and after independence salt mine is hitherto under the control of Pakistan mineral development corporation.
This place was enriched with natural beauty like natural lakes, high mountains, green trees with various birds like vulture, Hoopoe, pigeon, partridge, sparrow, pea-cocks with a variety of animals like urhial, dear and swine etc . All these birds and animals with soothing environment were guarantors of vista of this area. That’s why, the great Mughal emperor Babur while passing by this place stayed here and fancied the beauty of jurisdiction in 1519 AD. Bagh-e-Safa had been built at this place upon his decreed. Stone throne was also made on which emperor used to stand and issued instructions to his warriors. During meditation, a lot of time was spent by Babur at this spot and was inspired by the beauty of place. That’s why described it as;
”A charming place with a natural beauty”
Ambience of very place was so much soothing that people who used to approach Islamabad through this way coming from central Punjab, felt a bit change of 10 to 15 degree down temperature in this hilly area as compared to central Punjab. As, salt mine Khewra being world’s second largest mine extricates 350,000 tons per annum salt that is 99% pure halite. 250,000 visitors are exhorted by salt mine every year. Salt range was not only saturated with salt but also it was having a huge reservoir of coal and precious rocks. Which were backbone of its importance and beauty. Voices of various birds bearing variety of tones were hearkened and enjoyed by the masses of particular shelter and visitors every morning.
Coal was already being explored by the government to imbue energy crisis in the country along with salt for foodies and the corporations extricating these reservoirs were having no aftermath upon the routine lives of general masses and that delving was essential. With the passage of time, investors and share-holders after putting glimpses upon the precious rocks of salt range showed verdict of utilizing cobbles. What was going to happen that was unknown to common people but former MNA and columnist Mr. Ayaz Amir read between the lines and warned the public and government about upcoming danger through his columns. He was the man, who ushered various wedges for those investors by awakening the public but to no avail.
MNA of then time, having ministry of environment showed his ” Unconditional Positive Regards” for native town by refuting the approval of factories at this beautiful place of salt range. What could be done for stopping such businessmen who were allies of government or had direct link with government? Nothing, similar contingency happened with panorama of salt range.
Investors for wangling public opinion annexed themselves with the district local bodies leadership by unleashing sweet dreams to them. In return, it was visualized that district local bodies leadership of very time tried to congregate public under one oasis by flabbergasting about jobs for them and welfare of this terrain through very projects by taxation upon production of these factories. After coping with the issue of expected public uproar, investors started working for attaining ”NOCs” from the government. which was no issue to those businessmen and they grasped their ”NOCs” through different means; fair or unfair, unknown to me.
Now, three factories like DG cement, Pakistan cement and Bestway cement are running at this cot with transportation of cement to all cities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. Let me state that only DG cement factory here is concocting 5500 tons of cement per day by crushing precious rocks. That means, similar ratio of output less or above will be lingered by other factories here as well. Various clauses have emerged through these factories.
First, that soothing environment of salt range has been sabotaged which was fancied by emperor Babur regarding this jurisdiction just because of air pollution. These outlandish plants of cement on one side bagging money for owners but on other side making whole area a living hell. Second, all the mountains with green trees and herbs are being downsized day by day for escalation in the product ratio. That day is not far away when hilly area of salt range will be like the plain grounds of potwaar region. Because it has started happening now that no change in temperature is being felt by ites of central punjab during journey to Islamabad through hilly areas as was felt before these factories.
Third, where are those promises made with the public of area regarding jobs. Mostly, the residents of salt range are watched doing the jobs of security guard, loading and unloading of the raw material and final goods. A few transporters of area are also there apprehending benefits. No white collar job has been offered to very public. Question is;
Why white collar jobs are not being offered?
As far as Chakwal district is concerned, literacy rate is culminating and a plethora of people from this locality are serving on the nobility all over the Pakistan and globe as well. Fourth clause which oozed as aftermath of these factories is destruction of roads as heavy vehicles carrying a jag of cement to other cities of country have destroyed the road infrastructure of Chakwal district.
Government is exhibiting no soft corner towards this destruction. May be those investors are being patronized by the government or taxes are being grasped from investors but I don’t think so about second condition. Now, all the residents of area are agitating against the danger warned by Mr. Ayaz Amir at ripe time owing to fraught environment, which these factories are creating.
Let me say something about prevailing conditions, former governor safdar who had been resident of this area contacted with the local sitting MNA and asked him, ”what are they doing for their area?” During talk, former governor showed his desire for nestling in his native town but he couldn’t do so due to his wife who was patient of asthma and couldn’t live in such dusty ambience. That’s why governor is living with his family in cosmopolitan city.
When such allegory arrived into my knowledge, I was stunned because former governor and other people like him can afford marooning native towns but where will a poor farmer go with his goat and donkey?
First, he-man can’t use alternative peeping into his pocket and second, he is not willing to crisscross his inherited culture and traditions which are everything for him as legacy by his antecedents. From culture and traditions, I came to know that during summer, people slept on the roofs of houses in the villages. But contrary to the past, now natives of salt range don’t think to do so. If they do, then in the morning, they will wake with a layer of dust almost 1 inch deep upon their faces and beds.
Is this still similar ambience having natural beauty?
No, natural beauty has become a tale of the past after removal of sky high mountains with green herbs by factories for fulfilling the demand of raw material. Now a few other investors after introspecting into fiscal output of these factories are planning to construct more factories and whose credentials are in pipeline like lucky cement etc. Nothing can be expected from government regarding improvement in this devastating situation because government is cowering taxes up to extent instead of contentment. Which is bruise of leverage for these factories and their owners.
Danger is also fluctuating upon ”Katas Raj” which is located in territory of salt range and a holy place of worship for the Hindu community like Qibla awal in the canopy of Israel for the muslims. if some damage is done with this temple then upon which podium, we will demand the protection of our Qibla awal in Israel. Protection of Katas Raj is our moral and religious duty so it should be protected from this impending disaster.
If salt range is visited by you now then I don’t think that you will praise the natural beauty because beauty has been sabotaged. Government had alternative for piling-up taxes and hitherto we have chances of betterment like a decorum plan should be put to podium for promoting this area for the visitors with construction of cable car, new parks, protecting natural lake, pointing Takht-e-Baburi with protection of wild life.
If this is done then government will clutch more revenue as compared to revenue coming from factories. In this way, natural beauty can be maintained and money can also be bagged by the government. But renaissance upon the side of government which is missing should be lurched. Because this is last opportunity of betterment after this we will be left with no chance.