Neelam Valley, Publish Date: Jul 7 2018
As the summer sun warms the verdant valleys of Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), its snow and glaciers begin to melt, and the deadly landmines buried within them slowly begin to shift downstream towards the villages below.
Laid by troops along both sides of the highly militarised Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border dividing the Himalayan region between India and Pakistan, the landmines are believed to kill and maim dozens of villagers each year.
“It is a hilly area. Our village is located at the bottom, and the posts are at the top,” explains Muhammad Sulaiman, a 72-year-old resident of the village of Bugna, in the steeply sloped Neelum Valley.
When the snow melts, he says, the mines “flow from the top to our village”.
Villagers routinely ford the many small streams criss-crossing the valley as they go about their daily business. “They are hit by landmines, and they become victims,” Sulaiman says.
Nobody knows how many landmines flow into populated areas this way each year. The area is vast, and villagers do not always report what has happened.
But it is enough that in winter the villagers feel safe, many told AFP, while rising temperatures bring increased nervousness.
Like Sulaiman, Salima Bibi lives in Bugna, a village of 1,500 people that has only enough electricity for lights–not heat or cooking–and is just yards (metres) from the LoC. Pakistani and Indian troops are deployed on the heights above it. (AFP)