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Accessibility interrupted: the Shimshal road, Gilgit‐Baltistan, Pakistan

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Geographers working in mountainous northern Pakistan note that gains in accessibility following the Karakoram Highway's official opening in 1978 significantly reshaped social organization, economic activity, and land use across the region. These valuable regional‐scale analyses provide few insights regarding the contingent and variable ways new roads are conceived and experienced at the community and household level by the people whose mobility they drastically impact. This article addresses that limitation of regional research by focusing on an individual agricultural community called Shimshal that in 2003 completed a 40‐kilometre link‐road connecting it to the highway. Drawing from qualitative information gathered before and after the Shimshal road's completion, we briefly describe the community's motivation for constructing the road, villagers’ accessibility‐related hopes and concerns as it was being built, and some of the social, cultural, and economic changes that followed the road's completion. The article concludes by summarizing the community's response so far to landslide‐induced destruction of over 20 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway which, since January 2010, has left community members without vehicular access to the rest of Pakistan just seven years after their link‐road's completion.
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario 2: Department of Sociology, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario

Publication date: 01 September 2011

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