The 4th of January was a gloomy and disastrous day for Hunza, once considered paradise on earth, which claimed 19 precious lives in the Attabad village due to landslides.
Although natural disasters are inevitable, disaster management incorporated with human settlement planning can at least save human lives.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance, disaster management organisation of the Aga Khan Development Network, conducted a geological survey in the year 2007 and also shifted 27 families from Attabad.
The villagers have time and again requested the Government of Gilgit, Baltistan, for providing them land that was safe as an alternative for resettlement. However, they were ignored for unknown reasons as a consequence of which they faced tragic results.
The debris of Attabad village blocked the Hunza River and it now acts like an ‘iron wall’, creating an artificial lake 22km long and almost 100 meters high. So far, three villages — Siskhat, Gulmit and Ayeenabad — have been submerged under water as a result of landslides. Attabad makes the total four.
The economy of Gojal, Hunza, is totally dependent on cultivation of potatoes and apples. Unfortunately, this year residents cannot earn a livelihood and cannot afford sending their children to local schools. They are studying in down country universities and colleges.
The worst part of the post – disaster scenario is the slow pace of work being carried out by the Frontier Works Organisation. Almost four months have passed and they have yet to complete their work.
On behalf of the local community and civil society, we want to know as to why the Federal Government has not given the excavation project to Chinese engineers who are extremely efficient, and are already working on the extension of the Karakoram Highway.
The Government of Pakistan, United Nations, NGOs and the international community are requested to generously support the affected people of Hunza and Gilgit in their hour of need.
THE Hunza river dam was created naturally by huge landslides. It has become a potential danger to villages lying upstream and bridges and roads lying downstream. It will also affect areas lying upstream of the Tarbela dam. Such dams are not structurally safe and would give way to the pressure of water sooner or later. Therefore, they should be breached by controlled blasting as quickly as possible.
If the height of water is allowed to rise to a significant level, apart from submerging villages lying upstream, the rushing water in case of a breach would travel downstream at an extremely high speed, washing away structures like bridges, roads, etc. lying downstream.
It may even widen the river valley downstream. In case of the Indus, it may damage the Karakoram Highway. The flooding water may travel all the way up to the Tarbela reservoir and may deposit sediments in its upper reaches.
The technical input of consultants must have taken all these considerations into account. However, along with the evacuation of villagers living upstream, controlled blasting should be considered as quickly as possible.