Matta, Swat: Difference between revisions

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[[Category:Swat District]]
[[Category:Swat District]]
[[Category:Cities, towns and villages in North-West Frontier Province]]
[[Category:Cities, towns and villages in North-West Frontier Province]]

Revision as of 20:55, 18 December 2009

Matta (Urdu: مٹہ‎) is a town in Swat District, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan. It is located at 35°5'35N 72°18'35E and has an altitude of 1120 metres.


Matta City: historical perspectives of natural resource dynamics

The Matta City, having more than 10,000 inhabitants, is one of the largest settlements of District Swat, located near the north junction of Swat River and Haronai River, where the author was born and observed its development thoroughly for more than 30 years. The City is passing through continuous socio ecological change. The scattered ruins all-around the city shows that it remained a center of strong cultures in the recent past. Its present form got recognition with the construction of a Matta Fort here, in 1914. Later on it was declared as the tehsil headquarters by the then Ruler of Swat State. In the sixties, its whole population comprised less than 50 households, a few of them being within the Fort. None of the households had proper sanitation, water supply, or cemented roofs, except a house of the Medical Officer of Civil Hospital Matta.

The fort was made up of stone massenary. It was surrounded by a 45–50 feet deep and of nearly the same width protection trench with the extensive growth of thorns like; Zizypus vulgaris, Silybum marianum, Onopordeum acanthium . The outside fields/ wastland of the fort had scrubs of Zizypus, Carthamus oxycantha, Centurea, Eryngium biebersteinianum, and Tribulus terristris. The protected environment of the trench was associated with a variety of animals including some of the world’s famous poisonous snakes like brown and black cobras and wifers, and different types of lizards etc. The only shade trees in the fort area were four oriental planes still present inside the Matta Police Station. Both the roads sides were planted with Melia azedarach trees. Matta Hospital and Tehsil buildings were planted with the beautiful exotic evergreen Schinus mule, Eryobotryea and deciduous trees like Dalbergia, Melia, local pears, ornamental roses and some climbers etc. The whole area surrounding the city was baren treeless scrub.

The landscape of the then village comprised a swamp called Chaquar, located in the south east of the village, it remained completely reserved for the water fowls till 1969. The typical hydrophytic vegetation of Chaquar had the species like Potomogeton, Sagittaria, Achorus, Caryx, Rannunculus, Naustertium, Scabiosa, Hydrilla, Chara and a variety algal and bryophytes associated with rich cyanobacteria and diatoms.

The Chaquar was surrounded by the irrigated paddies called Shorgarae, cultivated with coarse rice as summer crop and Clover(Trifolium) fodder as spring crop. In the south of the village, an irrigation canal with clear water and dense leasing shade of the drooping willows relaxed the visitors during the harsh summers. A beautiful spring of Shah Baba Kote with crystal clear chilling cold water in summer and pleasing warm water in winter had always been an attraction for all the villagers. All the people without gender discrimination used the spring water for drinking and bathing purposes. As the village had no proper water supply, most of the fetching was carried out of this spring. The deep shade of willows provided shelter to a variety of beautiful small and large songbirds. The spring was regarded as a cultural center. The yeels and other fishes were usually evident in its cemented boundary and were not preyed by anyone, as a part of the culture. The canals and rivers had plentiful fishes and were generally used for fishing.

The nearby irrigated land of the village were generally cultivated with spring wheat and maize during winter and summer, respectively. Inter cropping was a common practice and was generally done with oil rape and pulse legumes, while fiber crops (Chorchorus capsularis), was usually planted at the boundaries of maize field. The hillside poor fields called Mairie, were generally cultivated with lentil or wheat and alternated with fallow. The fallow fields were used for grazing livestock. Mairie located on the north of the Matta village had thorny scrubs mainly of Zizypus vulgaris, Daphne oleoydes, Carthamus oxycantha, Artemisia scoparia, species of Astragulus, Eryngium, Selibum, Onopodium, Indigofera, Lathyrus sativus, L. cicra, Vicia spp., Sausorea, Oxytropus, Stychus parviflora, Origanum vulgare, Teucrium stocksianum and Solanum xanthocorpum etc. These rainfed fields had only three visible trees, traditionally known for their toponyms as “ the Landai sha Toot Shamsher Khona and Chirro Shahid” the latter two being Olea cuspidata and the former one was Mulberry. The hill (Mandoor) on the north of the village had scrub vegetation with the only three but huge trees of two willows and one plane present on Goodar (spring). These hill were mainly used for grazing livestock or collecting hay fodder and forage production.

The people were living very simple lives. Most of the people cultivated their own crops and reared their own livestock and bee for honey. Each family had their kitchen garden generally located in the farms near the villages called Barai. Purchase of food commodities (Biaj) was considered as low profile status in the community. The population was sparse and was checked by the fatal epidemics periodically. People managed their resources according to their needs.

With the increase in population associated with the unplanned extension of agriculture, the natural ecosystems were disturbed. Chaquar was reclaimed, it was transformed into Shorgara (paddy fields) causing the replacement of hydrophytic communities of Carex indica, Sagitteria sagitifolia, Achorus calamus, Hydrilla, Chara, Marsilia, Nasturtium officinalis and the associated planktons into the cultivated fields. The permanent field boundaries in this land use are generally planted with adlers, poplars and willows (Fig ). Whereas, the temporary boundaries made for retaining water are planted with pulse legumes. The fields are extensively cultivated with paddies and clover as fodder alternately. Most of the fields in Shorgarae and Barai have been transformed into the orchards of apples, persimmons, peaches, apricots and plums. All the orchards are bounded by the trees like poplars, Ailanthus, Robinia, Melia, Mulberries and Wild figs etc. Wild roses, blackberry, raspberry and Caesalpinia decapitala are generally planted as boundary hedges of the orchards. In most of the small orchards the yield and quality of the fruits are hampered by the boundary trees which are generally much more in number than the fruit trees inside particularly in the small orchard.

In Mairie all the uncultivated lands have been leveled in to crop fields causing a simultaneous loss of the natural flora; most of the crop fields are bounded with the fast growing Robinia and Ailanthus. A portion of the hillside with undisputed ownership is planted with fast growing trees or at least is protected. Plantation of exotic fast growing trees on the exposed rocks has given some protection to the highly degraded natural flora. It is expected that the natural flora regenerating with time will surpass the exotic fast growing trees for they have more species diversity and is highly adapted to the prevailing ecological conditions.

Presently Matta City is occupied by more than ten thousands of people and it expanded over the nearby villages. Roughly 80% of its residents are completely dependent on the market for the daily use commodities. Economically the people became prosperous but ecologically somewhat poor. A variety of plants are introduced every year through different sources for variable needs and some of them are naturalized in the area. The new introductions generally have a narrow gene pool and are therefore highly prone to the ecological stresses in the new environments. The area has lost species diversity especially in terms of frequency. The drinking water became polluted. Agricultural land is extended and per unit production have been increased but still food is imported; neither the bees have been retained nor the quality of honey. Still people live with rather prosperous lives.

Ahmad, H. 1998. SOCIOPOLITICAL CHANGES AND AGROFORESTRY DEVELOPMENT:a working paper on vegetation dynamics of Swat Valley Pakistan(Extract from unpublished report of Prof. Habib Ahmad)