Dr David Petley’s report on the Attabad landslide lake

Executive summary

This report provides a summary of the key findings of a visit to Pakistan, including a short field visit to the landslide dam at Attabad in Hunza. A full report will be available within a few days. This report makes a series of recommendations regarding management of the hazard at Hunza, and both upstream and downstream, for consideration.

Key recommendations include (NB this list is not exhaustive):

  • There is a substantive risk of an outburst event caused by the landslide dam in Hunza;
  • An outburst event is most likely during or shortly after water flows across the spillway. However, such an event could be triggered by a range of other processes, some of which may provide little warning;
  • If such an event occurs, there is the potential for a large flood wave to travel downstream as far as Tarbela Dam. This wave would greatly endanger the downstream population and could cause damage to infrastructure;
  • The safe level is considered to be 60 m above the current river level, although further, more details work should be undertaken to verify this. Populations located between the river level and the safe level should be evacuated prior to the arrival of the wave. This will require precautionary evacuations for those people living immediately downstream of the dam; and emergency evacuation plans for those further downstream.
  • There is also substantive risk to people living close to terrace edges and on unstable slopes; these populations should also be protected through evacuation;
  • A flood wave would also cause substantive damage to infrastructure downstream, and the impact of the flood will pose problems in terms of livelihoods and welfare.
  • If the dam does not breach in the initial flow event, an expert group needs to be convened to determine the point at which an all clear can be given. This group must be convened before the overtopping event starts.
  • If the dam does not breach there will be a long term hazard at the site that will continue to threaten downstream communities. This will require a long term monitoring effort and a disaster plan to move the affected population at short notice. Management of this hazard will require considerable investment;
  • There will be substantive impacts on the upstream communities regardless of the future state of the dam. The nature of these impacts depends upon whether a collapse event does occur;
  • Whilst constructing the spillway is undoubtedly an appropriate first step, a great deal more work is urgently required in terms of the management of the hazard, in particular outside of the area between Attabad and Gilgit, which Focus are working upon. The downstream communities are facing a level of risk that is not tolerable – immediate action is required at national level to protect the population between Attabad and Tarbela Dam.
  • Thought is needed regarding the decision to protect the dam against erosion. Consideration should be given to intentionally allowing an outburst event with an evacuated population in order to manage the landslide hazard;
  • A substantive monitoring effort is required without delay;
  • Four alert states are recommended, underpinned by a robust communications plan and an awareness and evacuation plan for the potentially-affected population as far as Tarbela Dam.

Click on the link below to download the complete report

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  1. I read the full report,it is very interesting and very professional done.
    1) On behalf of people of Hunza we will like to thank FOCUS for inviting Dr Daved Petley to study Attabad landslide.
    2) Why has government not taken action so far on Dr Petley report.
    3) FOCUS has put Early warning Siren in 12 village and also is doing evacuation drills and prepardness in more than 25 villages. Why is governemnt/NDMA not doing this in villages below Gilgit.
    4) it seems KKH will be blocked for long time. What will happen to poor people agriculture and trade. What will happen to Pakistan trade with China through road.

    Please this is more serious disaster than we think. Please the International donor agencies should take notice and intervene

  2. thanks to FOCUS/ AKDN for hiring the services of an expert.

    I did read the report and I could see at the Durham university website- at some point it says

    ” it was very difficult to estimate the likelihood of such an event, but based upon experience from other landslide dams “a breach must be considered a real possibility”.

    I could not see anything about water pumping and sprying options ( japanise recomandation reflected in Pamirtimes) to accelrate the outcomeof the excavation which some of our friends in Islamabad were taking about!

    If breaching is the real option which Dr. David thinks, then the pace of breaching must be increased which is a missing link in the current situation. I guess wait and see formula for overtopping the spillway by natural means will cost huge to the population and other stakeholders including the country.


  3. Very simple, Mr. Shah. The government of GB in place right now is consisting of ex-contractors (Thekedars), their level of understanding is very limited and they are simply not qualified enough to read reports written by experts of the caliber of Dr. David and other learned professionals.

    If we see what ever is done on ground for the people minus the efforts of Focus and the local volunteers we see nothing except the false claims by the governments for the affected people. It was not the job of FOCUS to call in international experts on disaster. The government agencies like NDMA and FWO should have done this. And we see now that despite the clear reports with suggestions the government does not seem to have bothered.

    Secondly the person leading the government (the CM) seems even more illiterate and needs to learn even the basics of decency and ethics. It is a pity for us the people of GB that people like Ghazanfar and Mehdi Shah have been on the top positions who may be good to please their masters but a damn laymen in terms of leadership qualities.

    Both of them don’t know how to talk to the public.

    Oh God, Save us, these guys can lead us to the stone ages.

  4. Dear brothers,
    Nature has its own ways to teach lessons to mankind. A few glaring lessons from this event are,
    1.Never let your ego to defy reality.The Deputy Commissioner goes on to decree the report of DR/. David Petley as incorrect. I dont think the worthy Commissioner is a geologist . Even if he has studied geologyprior to joining the civil service, he has to go through a lot of experience to reach the calibre of DR. David Petley, a person of World Fame.What if DR. David Petley’s findings turn out to be true? will the worthy Commissioner have the integrity enough to apologise for his un civilised comments?I am sure he will not, for he is a Civil SUPERIOR Servant. (Rather a superior human)
    2. Nature wants us to learn that there is a requirement of constructing Dams, which could serve as reserviors and also safety mechanisms in case there is a repetition of such an event upstream of the manmade dams. I request DR. David Petley to throw some light on this.
    3.The media in Pakistan has no code of conduct.The key to their success lies in creating a hype, attracting the attention of the masses, earn revenue from advertisements and ignore the consequences of misleading the masses.The Media could have followed the example of the National Geographic Channel , educated people of the actual events and repurcussions and also earned revenue from making a documentary of the Nat Geo Calibre. The irony is that the Media people are equally uneducated, and incompetent. They compensate their weaknesses through sensationalism and creating dreary scenarios. The media must take on a responsible and objective role to build this nation and not to create chasms from cracks.
    4. Landslides are a recurring national phemenon in the Northern Areas, they are bound to re occur, we should develop strategie from lessons learnt from this experienceans develop SOPs to react in the proper direction well in time in the future.

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