Once a month, Wahid Mohammadzai goes to Afghanistan in a van to bring dry wood to sell in local markets. Previously, he worked on the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project as a worker to earn a monthly salary of Rs20,000.
I meet Wahid near Kili Hummai, his village, about 15 km from the main camp of Reko Diq. He says he is a chowkidar in a private mine in the Reko Diq area. Your employer pays you a misery and that also after three months. That is why he has to bring wood from Afghanistan to feed his family.
He wants Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) to return to Reko Diq to resume work at the copper and gold mines. The reason: you will receive 20,000 rupees every month.
After traveling for almost more than 500 km from Quetta, the abandoned city of Naukundi appears along the National Highway. Naukundi is also the hometown of Senate President Sadiq Sanjrani.
Reko Diq is 85 km from Naukundi. Between Naukundi and Reko Diq, there is not a single human settlement on the other side of the road.
A survival saga of people living near the gold mines.
There are few human settlements on the east side of Reko Diq. One of them is Kili Siah Reg, near the main TCC camp. The town has about 40 houses that have been abandoned after the closure of the TCC camp. The empty houses of this village are full of sand. The walls have collapsed or eroded due to extreme weather. My driver tells me that the CBT provided water to the residents and that it was the closure of the Reko Diq project and the consequent interruption of the water supply that forced thirsty residents to move to another location.
In the shadow of the picturesque mountains of Hummai Gar, Kili Humai comprises two small twin villages that have a hundred houses made of mud bricks and stones.
In Hummai, my host is Saleem Mohammadzai, about 30 years old. He tells me that these days his main source of income is the dry wood business. Like him, other villagers also depend on this business. "If you can't do it, you and your family won't have a bite to eat for days," he says, with eyes full of tears.
Hummai lacks basic services, it only has one well, from where women and children go to get water. In addition, the village has been severely affected by drought, as have other remote areas of the Chagai district. The cattle, the main asset of the villagers, has perished.
"It has rained only after we lost our cattle," laments Ghulam Mohammad Mohammadzai, another villager. "The water table has also sunk to unreachable depths."
When the CBT was working in the area and most of the locals were working there, "we were simply Reko Diq chowkidars, despite the fact that we have been living here for centuries," laments Saleem.
"I pray for the company's return"
Habibullah Mohammadzai, 60, comes to look for me at Saleem's house. He has no children and lives with his wife. In his twilight years, Habibullah was working with CBT as a mistri. Now he has the financial support of his brothers. But, day by day, it is becoming difficult for him to survive. Sometimes he and his spouse have to sleep on an empty stomach.
Saleem's nine-year-old son sits next to me. I put in my pocket a note of Rs1,000. After a while, Habibullah whispers in my ear if I could also take care of him.
The next day, Hummai seems almost vacant. Saleem says that most of the locals have gone by a truck that has brought rations to the village affected by the drought, for the first time in their lives. The truck has been sent by Sadiq Sanjrani's father, Asif Khan Sanjrani. Send these ration trucks to these people to secure your family's voting bank, especially since your son assumed the position of President of the Senate.
Posted on Dawn, September 23, 2019