Mohmand: The city of marble in problems

Murad Khan

Mohmand District has a population of around 466,944 and an area of 2296 sq. km. The cultivated area is around 9% and water availability is an issue in most parts of the District.

The prominent sectors include Agriculture and Minerals, vegetables are predominant products in Agriculture. In mineral sector Marble, Chromite, Silica Sand, Dolomite, Manganese, Quartz, Emerald, Nephrite and Feldspar deposits are also reported. Due to large number and high quality of marble reserves, a project is being initiated in order to process the available marble into world class products by establishing ‘Marble City Mohmand’ in collaboration with PASDEC. (Pakistan Stone Development Company). Infrastructure development of the estate is near to completion, but the people related to marble business are very much disappointed over lack of basic facilities of electricity and infrastructure.

The Board of Directors meeting of special economic zone authority on 30th June 2021 approved and granted the status of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to Mohmand Marble City. The meeting chaired by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan approved the purchase of 2,000 acres of land for the city to convert it into the SEZ, while the authorities concerned were directed to start the feasibility study.

The meeting was informed that Mohmand Economic Zone covers an area of 350 acres, while 106 out of 290 plots of different categories in the zone have been allotted. Moreover, a 132KV grid station has been set up in the city to supply electricity to industries. The chief minister directed officials that shifting of marble factories from Warsak road, Malagori and Shabqar to the economic zone should be done on priority basis.

39 years old Rahman-ul-din, assistant Director Mines and minerals department in District Mohmand says “the main mines of marble are in Ziyarat, Khanqaa, gumbatay and speenkay tangay.” The government gave annual contract on PRs: 6.5 million to a private firm, who takes Rs: 90/ton. He said that govt. is taking 4 types of tax on marble i-e Government royalty, TMA service tax, excise duty and the money taken by local owners of that mines. He added

About the benefits of marble industry Rahman-ul-din said that marble industry has various economic benefits, for example: more than 20 labors are working in a single mine (i-e technical staff, drill-man, machine operators, accountants, managers, cook and other employees), besides this, the people involved in transportation, loading and unloading, employees in marble factory, hotels and so many other indirect people are involved in marble industry. Besides top tiles, the waste and powder of marble is used in more than hundred industries, for example the powder is used in paint industry, whitening of paper, medicine, cosmetics, rubber industry, filling materials, polishing and cutting industry.

AD Mineral and Mines suggested that instead of old and conventional methods (like blasting in mines), if the new technology (like wire-saw mechanism) is used for the extraction of marbles, it will minimize the cost and the end product will be in regular and good shape.

49 years old Naushad Khan, who is President of Mohmand Marble industries Union says “Due to its unique and beautiful shape the Mohmand’s marbles are not only supplied to the whole country but it is also exported to China, KSA, UAE, Italy, Qatar and so many other countries, besides this the waste powder of marble is used in cement, utensils and iron burning industry, as the quarts has it’s unique property of not melting on high temperature.”

About the shifting of marble industries from residential areas into CEPC Zone, Mr. Naushad said that govt. did not provide good facilities in Mohmand Marble city, due to which the people are not establishing industries there. He said that the Mohmand Marble City is very much faraway, so the transportation charges increases and the customers don’t come there, besides this the govt. had promised about the subsidized rates of electricity, but the owners says that neither they got subsidy nor they have been provided good facilities of infrastructure and water there.

37, Iftikhar owner of Abdullah Marble factory says that we bring marble stones from Ziyarat, Gumbatay, Khanqaa, Koh e mor, torakhwar, speenkay tangay, Yara kheel, Ghanam Sha, daweezai and shen kamar areas. But the most famous marbles are found in Ziyarat, gumbatay and Khanqaa. In Mohmand district there are plenty amount of chromite, nephrite, quartz, iron ore and so many other precious stones and minerals. There are many types of marbles found here like white, gray, black, red and dark blue, but the most famous marble of Mohmand district are white, grey and red. Precious supreme white, 300-600. Mr. iftikhar added that in 1980 the first marble were found in Gumbati area in Pandialai Tehsil of Mohmand District, followed by ziyarat and other areas. He said that the mineral department has not been extended their services to merged districts (Ex-FATA), so for electricity purpose, the new businessman have to register his factory with TESCO (Tribal Electric Supply Company),

iftikhar said “In order to establish a new factory, the estimated cost is from ten to fifteen million Pakistani rupees, the estimated income is from 2 to five lack per month, depending upon market rats, electricity and labor.” Mohmand’s Goods Transport Association president Haji Arif Ullah said that the government is taking different types of taxes from transporters, but on the other hand we are not facilitated. He added that around all the roads from mines to the destination (industries) are damaged, due to which the transporter community are facing sever issues, due to damaged roads the truck drivers are forced to change tyres of their heavy vehicles every month, which costs from 3 to 6 lack, besides this petrol and diesel prices are getting high after every month, which results increase in transportation charges, but the owners of marble industries complaints after getting high transportation charges.

Haji Arif Ullah said that after consultation with district administration, local elders, owners of marble industries and drivers, we have chanted a mechanism for fixing transportation charges, after ten rupees increase in petroleum products, we increase one rupee per ton in transportation charges. Chairman Mohmand’s Goods transport association, Haji Zait Ullah, 43 said that government should solve the roads issue and in case of any emergency the govt. should provide compensation to the dead and injured drivers and damaged vehicles, because in case of any accident and emergency, we do not have any sort of funds. He added that when an emergency occurs, we collect funds from truck drivers for the injured and for the families of dead drivers.

A 32 years old Driver Arshad Khan belonging to tehsil haleemzai said that we use to bring marbles from ziyarat and khanqaa areas to Subhan khwar, Peshawr, Mohmand marble city, mardan and jahangeray.

About the load he said that truck having single axel brings 30-35 tons while double having trucks brings 40-50 tons of marble, usually we do a single trip in 2-3 days. Mr. Arshad complaints that the damage roads and taxes from government and said that due to price hike and increase in inflation rate our income is badly affected, now we just earn 15 thousand per trip, and if we count the tyres, mobile oil, mechanics and other charges, our income is considerably very low.

There are more than 500 factories in just Mohmand district and usually more than 20 labors are working in a single factory, it means more than ten thousand people are related directly to marble business. Besides this, the truck drivers, mechanics, marble dealers and in thousands other peoples are indirectly related to marble industry in Mohmand district.

As the FATA merger have taken place, so like other govt. the mineral department have also extend their services to merge districts and is trying to solve the issues of mine owners and transporters. But due to use of conventional mining methods, damaged roads, taxes and duties, increase inflation rats, petroleum products price hike and very limited facilities from government side, the marble industry in Mohmand tribal district is facing sever issues, if these issues are solved, the govt. will not only earn a huge amount of revenue, but it will also help in thousand people to get their jobs and earn money for their children’s, which will ultimately bring revenue and business to Mohmand district, as thousands of people are directly and indirectly related to marble industry.

The Writer is Radio Producer and freelance Journalist, who tweets on @Muradonline123.