The First Porter Welfare Stakeholder meeting facilitated by High Altitude Sustainability - Pakistan and Khurpa Care Pakistan was held in Skardu on 1st October 2015.
Participants included 22 High Altitude porters from Baltistan with experience ranging from 4- 30 years (they included Hasan Sadpara, first Pakistani to climb 6 over 8000 m peaks; Ali Raza, 30 years of experience on Broad Peak, G1 and G2; Ali Durrani, youngest Pakistani on K-2; and Mohammad Hasan, member of the first all Pakistan team to attempt K-2 among other notable members of the local climbing community) and observers included representatives from the Agha Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) and Pakistan Red Cross Society (PRCS).
The participants had gathered to discuss the challenges being faced by this unique community in the face of increasing accidents due to climate change. Some of the issues discussed by the group included safety, need for better training, the lack of collective bargaining mechanisms, fair wage, insufficient insurance cover in case of accidental death and the unavailability of cover in case of injury or illness while working during season.
Speaking at the occasion, Zahid Rajput President KCP said, there is a need for better training as well as more unity within the community to address the challenges being faced by high altitude staff.
Some of the issues brought to the table and discussed as a community for the first time included safety, training, insurance and the need for collective bargaining.
Also present was Rahat Ali, Manager Institutional Development for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). Mr. Ali stressed the need for concrete mechanisms with proper governance structures to collectively voice rights and regular similar stakeholder meetings to create a stable platform for this community. Mr. Baqir Ali from the German Red Cross (GRC) also present on the occasion offered free first aid, safety training and risk reduction to climbers.
“We hope this process can eventually bring together a wide range of stakeholders in the in the Gilgit-Baltistan tourism industry” Hanniah Tariq, Chief Executive of HAS added. “The group will be able to jointly address issues and develop better guidelines that can help this unique community access better training, sufficient insurance and sustainable livelihoods”.She also added that the media can also play important role in creating awareness among people on the needs of high altitude staff in order to keep our mountains safe for them as well as the tourists they support in the face of increasing climate change and recent surge in tourism.
HASP and KCP have undertaken to arrange and facilitate regular similar meetings from March (due to end of season we have a hiatus till the winters are over).