1- NEW COTTON POLICY
2- FERTILIZER INDUSTRY
3- "COUNTRY ASSISTANCE STRATEGY" FOR PAKISTAN
4- TELECOMMUNICATIONS VISION 2005
5- IMPERATIVES OF SMES' PROMOTION
6- KNOW MY COUNTRY PAKISTAN
7- AGRICULTURE

 

KNOW MY COUNTRY PAKISTAN

 

Our columnist based at Metropolitan, Islamabad, would like to contribute a chain of series by the name of "Know my Country" Pakistan in future. The first of its kind (lst Episode) is appearing in this issue.

 

By Dr. M.H. Chaudhary
Aug 12 - 18, 2002

THE SALT WEALTH

Pakistan is a land of rich natural wealth. It is a land of lovely people. We have all the charming weathers here. We have rocky mountains, vast deserts, lush green fields, forests full of natural treasure, snowy and snow clapped lofty mountains and beautiful valleys and lakes. Sandy shores, rivers full of sea live stock, Rich, canals flowing to water the fields. Vast areas having precious metals and fluids beneath it like pig iron, gold, silver, bronze, gas, gypsum and rubies. Above all we are proud on our galliant army men known throughout the world of their bravery. The richness of our soil is unbelievable having rich treasures of nature beneath the surface. Hence the Father of the Nation rightly observed about assessing the value of our lands remarked "God has given you all kind of rich natural resources, it is your first and the foremost duty to exploit them to the maximum use".

Salt is salt! We do not know why our dishes and food is tasty but we know it is tasty and delicious. Who makes it tasty? We know salt makes them delicious and tasteful. Have we tried to know from where the salt, we use, comes from? There are two methods of getting salt, sea salt and the rock salt. The main habitat of salt lies there in the Punjab Province at Khewra in Tehsil Pind Dadan Khan, District Jhelum. The salt found here at Khewra Salt Mines (KSM) is the best, finest and in natural state in the world. Salt was first worked out in Khewra which is at about 175 K.M. South of the federal capital, Islamabad. History tells us that long before the Alexander the great invaded the area, Salt was being mined at Khewra at that time.

It is said that the Chiefs of "Janjua Tribe" were the first to initiate the standard mining practices here in the 13th Century. However, a chronology of the Moghal Rule in the Sub-Continent says that when the Moghals emerged supreme in the Punjab, they took over the Mine from the local tribal chiefs and, thereafter, started to work on it properly until the Punjab Province came under the Sikhs and so were to be the "Khewra Salt Mine". From Punjab, the British ousted the Sikhs and renamed the Mine as the "May Mine" in 1870. The British have been ruling over the Mine for a long time till the emergence of Pakistan on the globe of the World as an independent State on 14th August, 1947. There are ample proofs that on the principle of stealing the most previous Hera from the Taj Mahal Agra (India), the British did try to take away the keys of the KSM with them. But we and our generations are lucky to have the KSM with us in its original status and structure.

At present the Khewra Salt Mine is in the control of a federally controlled corporation i.e. PMDC. The Salt Mine has million of metric tonnes of very large deposits of good quality rock Salt. It is said that still large quantities of Salt exist in its unexplored areas of the Mines. The annual production of Salt at Khewra is about 300,000 tonnes according to the data released by M/o Petroleum & Natural Resources.

According to the available reports/data there is still enough Salt to last about 400 years to come in the existing mines. These reports reveal that about 534, 512 tonnes of fine rock Salt had been extracted up to 1850 and till March 1923 the production obtained from Khewra Salt Mines was 49,71,420 tonnes. The optimum output from the Khewra Salt Mines was obtained at the time of a British Engineer (Dr. H. Wrath) who for the first time put the mine on the scientific lines. He worked there per about 6 years from 1872 to 1878. Because of his efforts the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) of England established its Soda Ash Plant at Khewra in 1938. The ICI predominately is based on the Salt deposits obtained from the Mine. The ICI Industries have signed a lifetime agreement with PMDC for the mining of Salt from Khewra.

EXPORT OF SALT

Not only we meet our Salt requirements from the Khewra Salt Mines, but we also export Salt to India to the tune of 10 thousand to 18 thousand tonnes annually. It is also a source of earning foreign exchange for the government.

Now I would like my readers to take them to the miner side of the second largest Salt Mine of the World. The Mine is located on the Eastern Edge of the Salt Range in District Jhelum of Punjab. It demands one to be free from claustrophobia. It has 1290 meters long tunnels. The Mine is an open challenge to an adventureous spirit. It has 17 levels and there are 50 feet of rock salt between each level in which there are very large chambers, made when Salt was extracted. The Miners, in many of these chambers, have carved some stunning spectacular structures of Salt. One such structure is "The Assembly Hall" that reaches up to 350 feet in height having 300 narrow Salt stairs to reach the top. "The Badshahi Mosque" spread over 3000 sq.feet was completed in about 50 years. There is a "Salt Bridge" Called "The Pull Sarat" with no pillars whatsoever to support it. It is just a narrow strip of pure rock salt 20 to 25 feet in length and 5 feet thick with 80 feet deep ponds of brine (Saltish Water) on both sides. There are a few more models of structures i.e. the Great Wall of China, the Mall road of Murree, The Shimla Pahari, Lahore, Sheesh Mahal Lahore, Dewan-e-Mohabbat and the Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore have also been carved out in the main Mine. All these structures are made of pure transparent Salt that emit pink, white and red lights when lit up.

I would like to advise to those tourists suffering from Asthma, T.B having feeble lungs should avoid to pay visit the Mine as there are some drawbacks hygienically inside the Mine relating to lights and ventilation arrangements. If someone happens to come to the Mine, may put off his today's visit to some other suitable time.

In the present budget the Corporation has been allocated a sum of Rs. 3million for its development/expansion and other facilities to put the Khewra Salt Mines on modern scientific lines.

Our readers may be interested to know the treasure at Khewra Salt Mine valuable since certain rocks date back 600 million years to the "Pre-Cambrian Age" as estimated by the Geologists.

But during the visit to the Khewra Salt Mines the things which encounter to the visitors on the oneside are obsolete rail tracks and rusted mini-train wagons grounded in an abandoned state at quite some distance from the main Mine. These were the trains used to carry Salt out of the Mine, but now the Salt loading and transportation methods from the Mine have altogether changed with the advancement in the Mining practices.

It came to the knowledge of the writer that these workers of the Khewra Salt Mine and other Salt Range Mines are the most accident-prone people of the World. However, there is likelyhood that in Khewra Salt Mines incidents of carving in and casualties are rare because almost all the workers and Miners are local residents and know the mine better than any outsider. However, if an accident occurs the Corporation manages to treat the injured people there at their own hospital and in case of gravity of the situation PMDC manages to take the sufferers to Islamabad Hospitals for better treatment.

The local labour force and workers are suffice to work but in case of rush of work and export formalities of Salt the Management has to higher additional workers on daily wages. The need of the hour is that the present allocation of the Corporation may be enhanced. It is also proposed that the Corporation may consider increase in the wages of the Miners. It is worthwhile to note here that the Corporation contributes Rs. 55 lac as revenue to the federal exchequer annually. It is desired that PMDC may be allowed to extend something out of this earning to the welfare of its employees and to maintain the Mine as well as to improve its security nets, occupational socio-economic and health facilities.

On the other side the PMDC expresses to the Government to enhance Salt rates as almost all the utilities rates like gas, oil and Tea have gone up.