Muhammad Tayyeb, Rafiullah and Shah Nawaz
PESHAWAR: There is a popular saying which goes that “no one is jobless in Islampur”. Perhaps many people will think Islampur will be an industrially developed city but it is a union council in tehsil Babuzai of Swat District.
Situated at about 10km from the main city of Mingora, Islampur is famous for its traditional weaving industry. The handmade woolen shawls and other products prepared by local artisans are famous world over for their fine quality.
Having a population of less than 35,000 individuals, this little industrial town hosts around 15000 weaving units where a large number of womenfolk also work and earn a livelihood by weaving shawls and other winter products. Weaving is the centuries-old occupation of the people of Islampur and is perhaps their only source of income.
The cottage industry of Islampur was also hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic which had already devastated the global economy. The local manufacturers suffered greatly as their products could not be carried to other cities due to the lockdown and the closure of inter-cities transport.
The winter season is of great significance for the people of Islampur as the demand for their products goes up with the fall in the temperature. However, things are different this time.
Khatoon Begum, 40, tells TNN that the ban on inter-cities transport badly affected the local industry as they could neither import the raw material nor could dispatch the finished products to other cities.
Rasool Khan, who owns 12 weaving units in the town, says he had to close four of his units due to the lockdown.
Apart from the manufacturers, the shop owners at the local market who sell woolen shawls and other handicrafts have also been affected by the coronavirus lockdown. A shopkeeper Umar Ishaq tells TNN that the ban on entry of tourists to Swat during the first wave of coronavirus pandemic had shrunk his daily sale.
“Tourists were not coming to Swat due to the lockdown due to which our businesses were affected greatly. Besides, we were also unable to ship goods to other cities,” he says. Ishaq continues that the local industry will not afford a second lockdown.
It is widely believed that the former ruler of the State of Swat, Mian Gul Abdul Wadud had relocated artisans and weavers from Kokari, Jambail, Guli Bagh, Saidu Sharif, and even Buner to Islampur and set up an industry for them here.
Similarly, the weaving industry of district Charsadda also suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Charsadda is known for khaddar, which is popular with locals and foreigners alike. It is being produced in the Othmanzai, Rajar, and Mata Mughal Khel areas of the district. Local artisans prepare handmade and machine-made shawls and clothes.
Abdul Malik, who owns a khadi in the Othmanzai area, tells TNN that the first wave of coronavirus pandemic severely affected his business. He fears that if the government imposes another lockdown, it will literally close down his business and will not be able to earn a livelihood.
“The first lockdown hit the people associated with the khaddar industry very hard. The second lockdown, if imposed, will hit us harder and we will be unable to recover financially,” Abdul Malik remarks.
“I had been operating 25 machines before the lockdown. Presently, only five machines are operational while the rest are closed,” he informs.
The famous footwear industry of Charsadda, which attracts a large number of buyers from Peshawar and other districts, also suffered due to the coronavirus lockdown. The Charsadda Chappal is popular among Pakhtuns who wear it on special occasions like Eid and weddings. The market has about 1000 shops where more than 12000 craftsmen work in different capacities and prepare handmade footwear.
The curfews and lockdowns imposed in different countries during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, on one hand, restricted human mobility and affected economic activities, while on the other, it helped the environment to bounce back. The coronavirus lockdown affected various important environmental parameters which directly connected to human health. As all types of social, economic, industrial, and urbanization activities were shelved, the environment took the advantages and visible improvement was witnessed in the quality of air, cleaner rivers and less noise pollution.
Dr. Nafees, a professor at the Environmental Science department of the University of Peshawar says that industrial waste not only pollutes the atmosphere, it slowly and gradually contaminates the underground water which ultimately becomes the major cause of the deadly cancer disease.