by Abbas Ali
It is a time testing situation for the people of Attabad Hunza and its surrounding villages of Sarat, Salmanabad, Ayeenabad, Sishkat and Gulmit because all of them have been, directly or indirectly, affected by the recent unfortunate incidents of land sliding and resulted blockage of Hunza river.
The catastrophe of land sliding has taken 21 lives, 180 families (2500 people) have become displaced in Attabad, Sarat and Salman Abad. If the water level keeps on raising almost 400 families (5000 people) of Ainabad, Shishkat and Gulmit will also be displaced.
Immediately after the land sliding people from Salmanabad were shifted to camps of displaced people in order to avoid any risk because Salmanabad is the immediate adjacent village to Attabad. Another factor for moving them to the camps was the danger to the suspension bridge that links Attabad, Sarat and Salmanabad with the Karakuram Highway, as the only connection for these three villages with the rest of the Hunza and world.
However, there is another possible linkage for Salmabad with the rest of Hunza, also considered less risky, ‘the old silk route’ which was operational till a decade ago but due to lack of maintenance that part of historic silk route is non-functional now.
The suspension bridge at Sarat is in danger not only because of the recent land sliding of Attabad but is always at risk of heavy winds and continuous land sliding. At the same time it is relatively a very long route for the people of Attabad, Salmanabad and Sarat to go to Hunza. It is for this reason that the people of these three villages and Ahmadabad jointly developed a scheme to link with the rest of Hunza through a jeep- able road between Ahmadabad and Salmanabad.
The jeep-able road between Salmanabad and Ahmedabad was a joint venture of Gilgit-Baltistan government, AKRSP and the local community, where local community has provided land and services, while GB government and AKRSP were responsible for funds and technical assistance. Unfortunately after spending more than half a million rupees on construction of this route both AKRSP and GB government pulled backed and did not fund the program and leaving it half completed.
The people of Salmanabad and Ahmadabad have put their efforts to blast the rocks, putting their lives in danger, to construct the road with the hope that it will ease their lives by an easy and safe access with the rest of Hunza and world. However, the stoppage of funds by the said institutions has drowned the dreams of the people of the area as well as wasted more than half a million rupees as more than four years have passed but there is no plan to initiate working on that road.
Importance of Ahmadabad to Salmanabad road is becoming more crucial as after the survey of the affected areas of Attabad, Sarat and Salamanabad the geologists have declared that Salmadabad is safe and has no immediate danger due to the land sliding in Attabad. However, 50 family and almost 400 people of Salmanabad are forced to live in camps away from their homes and lands because there is a possible danger for the suspension bridge in Sarat which is the sole link for Salamabad with the rest of Hunza.
Therefore it is highly crucial for the safe resettlement of the people of Salmanabad in their homes that work on this route shall be started again, on emergency basis, without any further delay.
The other important facilities the people of Salmabad would need immediately are a middle school and a health center because these facilities were previously located in Sarat which is the central place for Salmanabad, Sarat and Attabad. Because of the land sliding Sarat has been severally affected and it has been declared dangerous place to live.
The government of Gilgit-Baltistan/Pakistan and other responsible institutions are therefore asked to immediately complete first the link road from Ahmadabad to Salmanabad, second construct and run health center, third a middle school.
The writer is a graduate of AKU – ISMC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org