Practical steps sought to check glacial floods

HUNZA, March 25: The residents of Hussaini village and Chutghust settlement have feared that the glacial floods could sweep away their village as the Hussaini-Ghulkin Glacier lake has started swelling.


Last year, the glacier lake outburst floods (GLOF) damaged four houses, six cattle sheds, four irrigation channels, 84 kanals of undeveloped land, 46 kanals of cultivated land, 450 fruit trees, about 1000 forest trees, 2,500 feet of link roads, two water tanks, 25 pipes (six inches) and three electricity poles, apart from the damage caused to Karakoram Highway.

The residents criticising the government for not compensating for the losses have demanded the Northern Areas Administration and other relevant authorities to take practical steps aimed at restricting the damages.

Meanwhile, a drought like situation hovers on Borith village since last year as the unusual advancement in the glacier has destroyed the water channels irri gating the beautiful Borith settlement.

According to reports the drought condition had affected more than 300 kanals of land, 235 trees of fruits and 247 forest trees of about 17 households.

The residents have demanded the Chief Secretary Northern Areas Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad to provide irrigation pipes for the village in order to save the settlement from total collapse.  Also at Dawn

By: Zulfiqar

Pictures Contributed by: Ali Musofir

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  1. Thoguh there are local national and international and local organizations who worked alot for the local communities. among them FOCUS has don alot while improving capacities of commuity so that they could withstand any disaster. each village has VERT which has been formed by FOCUS for the same purpose. Very recently WWF-P has implemented a Community Based Disaster Rsk Manamgnet Programe which was funded by UNDP with greater emphasis to enhance the skills of the community to make themdisaster resilient. the VERTs have also recieved some equipments for this purpose. But as we know the area has already experienced and witnessed a couple of incidents which damaged the life and livelihoods of the local peopel. the reduction of the the intensity of such kinds of floods (GLOF) is not in the hands of the local community. but they can take some precautionar steps to ensure the safety of the lives and property of the local community.
    Now on this platform it would be my request to the organizations like FOCUS, UNDP, WWF and public institutions like concerned departments, NADMA, Administration and other authorities to take some collective initiatives of large scale to reduce the pressure and growth of such kinds of lakes.
    there is need to appoint and support the local community to ensure the consistant monitoring of these lakes so that the commuity could be informed in a timelier way.
    my humble request is fo the VERT and CERT too to please organize yourself and play your key role in this regard.

  2. Yes this is going to be a big problem for mountain regions, some times beyond the capacity of humans to fight nature, but at other times beyond the means of poor communities and poor and corrupt countries, like Pakistan, where misplaced development priorities and corruption is a big drain on resources and undermines protection of life.

    Here is a case of GLOF risk reduction from Buttan, lessons for us:


    Lake Thorthormi is the largest glacial lakes in Bhutan, with a size of 3.42 sq. km, and thrice the dimension of Lake Lugge that burst in 1994. Geologists say the massive ice surrounding Lake Thorthormi is melting fast at 30-35 metres a year, and is filling up the lake quick. Of the 14 risky glacial lakes in Lunana, Lake Thorthormi is on the brink of breaching its walls.

    Lake Thorthormi feeds Punakha Pho Chhu and if it bursts, geologist say, it could inflict enormous damage downstream. Lake Lugge when it ruptured flooded villages on the way including Punakha town killing 21 people and uncountable livestock. Lake Thorthormi is thrice the size of Lake Lugge.

    A glacial expert, Dr Yeshi Dorji, of the geology department, said that measures were being planned for this year and beyond to reduce the water level of Lake Thorthormi and establish early warning system for the communities downstream. UNDP and European commission funded the mitigation works at US$ 7.8 million.

    “Excavation works on Lake Thorthormi will begin by June this year but before that necessary equipments and rations would be transported to the glacial site,” he said.

    But it was going to be an uphill battle. Pumps, to siphon off water from the lake, did not work properly and it was too heavy to transport machineries. It was also risky to utilize them as it could breach the glacial lake walls. All works had to be done manually with the help of tools such as spade, pixel and crowbars among others.

    Mitigation works had numerous problems such as sizes of boulders over 2m that could not be broken by sledgehammer or moved. There was also continuous seepages from the lakes which compelled people to work in freezing cold water. Frequent rains accompanied by cold breeze aggravated the problem.

    “The work output is reduced drastically as the labourers have to work with knee-deep water,” said Dr Yeshi Dorji. “The yearly ?work was also limited from June till September as during the other months the passes to Lunana got blocked.”

    Tools and rations had to be transported to the glacial site took almost 12 days uphill on foot. “Other countries unlike us could safe time using huge choppers but for us is expensive to hire and there is risk due to climate conditions,” said Karma Toeb of the geology department. Choppers suitable for such terrain cost US$ 200,000 for a trip.

    Geologoy officials present during the recent workshop on GLOF Risk Mitigation said that mitigation measures were challenging and proper assessment on the barrier characteristics had to be carried out in order to avoid mishaps. “We don’t want to trigger a GLOF by ourselves,” said a project official.

    Moreover, engineering designs have to be modified to suit the terrain while the excavation is in progress and the hazard zonation carried out should be implemented so that the development activities are not exposed to disaster, they said.

    Meanwhile, scientists say the temperature in the Himalayan region was rising twice as fast as the global average and that the glaciers were in rapid retreat.

    “Himalayan glaciers are retreating at rates ranging from 10 to 60 m per year with many small glaciers already disappeared,” said the vice president of Disaster Management Centre of Nepal, Bishal N Upreti,

  3. This year it had snowed very rapidly in Gojal and these kinds of flood will flow every where i think.

    its not only hussaini that they are in danger. but the most diasastres lake is at shimshal valley. we have forgotten about it. we realize them only when they brust.

    The lake in shimshal can cause high level diasasters not only to Gojal but also to Hunza Nagar And most parts of Gilgit.

    As it is a natrual matter and we can not say when and how will it happen!
    if a survey of all the lakes in the mountains should be done once in Gojal as early as possible .
    it would be very nice and reliefable to all.

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