by Zulfiqar Ali Khan
HUNZA, April 6: Government is pursuing an integrated approach in order to rehabilitate the people affected from the devastating landslide of Jan 04 in Hunza. This was said by the participants of the talk show held by Divaako Production with the collaboration of AKRSP in Karimabad Hunza. The panelists included Fida Karim; President Hunza chapter of Pakistan People Party, Zafar Waqar Taj; District Commissioner Hunza-Nagar, Tika Khan; Honorary Secretary Ismaili Regional Council, Azizullah Baig: Manager Knowledge Management AKRSP, Niaz Ali; Geologist FOCUS Pakistan, Faryad Ali; representatives of the affected people of Attabad and Aslam Khan; representatives of the affected people of Shishkat and Ayeenabad.
The District Commissioner rejected any immediate chance of sudden lake outburst and said that contingency plan is in place to deal any worst situation downstream. He said the district administration is working closely with other stakeholders to deal the disaster situation effectively. “On community request we are doing verification of the losses of the people of Attabad and Sarat before
finalizing the proposed financial package from Government” he informed. Commenting on coverage of the Attabad disaster the commissioner requested the local journalists to also appreciate and portray actions taken by the government on ground. He informed the panelists that civil supply department has transported over 9,900 bags of wheat to the isolated Gojal Tehsil. “Instructions have been given to all relevant agencies to ensures stocking of food, fuel, medicine and other essential items in Hunza-Nagar district”, he further said.
Explaining the excavation plan for construction of spillway the deputy commissioner said that the Frontier Works Organization will complete its 30 meters excavation target by April 17 and then decide about the future course of action. “Excavation work carried out thus far has reduced the risk by 56 percent”, head of the district administration said.
“We are not a rival party rather but a facilitator trying to ease sufferings of the community and we don’t have any benefit in delaying the processes” said Mr Zafar while explaining the government’s role. He further said that the district administration has forwarded its displeasure over closing of the government run Utility store in Gulmit. “We have recommended opening up of four stores in different locations of Gojal valley”, he informed. He also said the CM has directed to assess the loss of the traders due to damages caused to the perishable imported items.
Discussing the boat service Zafar said the old boats have been replaced and now 7 Army and 15 private boats are transporting the commuters, trade goods and essentials of life to and from Upper Hunza-Gojal. “The boat service will be temporarily suspended when the water started over-topping”, he added. He said the water release could start after mid May depending on the inflow of water.
Fida Karim, president of Hunza chapter of PPP said that the speaker of GBLA, Wazir Baig, has invited President Zardari to visit Hunza during a recent meeting. Fida appreciated the ‘proactive response’ of the Government during the disaster and appealed to write-off two years fees of the students from the affected areas. He assured to utilize all channels for rehabilitation of the affected people. “Some elements are trying to exploit the situation as an opportunity to become leaders ahead of the local government elections” he alleged.
Niaz Ali, a FOCUS Pakistan geologist said that seismic activities coupled with the nature of the rock were responsible for the massive landslide. He said the area is seismically categorized in blue zone. He said the water inflow in the 12 km long lake is 1032 Cusec which is causing depth of the lake to increase at average rate of 1.3 feet. About 230 million cubic meter of water has been so far stored in the lake and the depth has exceeded 250 feet, he informed. Niaz said that 21 Cusecs of water seepage has been reported from three different location on the lake barrier. About 110 feet of free board, distance from surface of the lake to current reduced height of the spillway, is still remaining . “The water release could start after May 15 if the conditions remained the same”, he said. The FOCUS geologists are working upstream and downstream in order to monitor the water movement in the lake and prepare the community for any potential crisis situation, he added.
Aziz ullah Baig, Manager AKRSP stressed the need for providing alternate crops to avoid economic set back to the people due to the lack of the cultivation of potato. He said AKRSP has provided seeds and fertilizers to the farmers of Gojal and in process to access resources to create livelihood opportunities in the affected areas.
Tika Khan, Honorary Secretary of Ismaili Regional Council Hunza stressed the need to have a stock of food, fuel, medicine and other necessities for at least six months in the isolated Gojal Tehsil and rest of Gilgit-Baltistan. He said the ultra poor needs to be targeted as the disaster situation has further increased their vulnerability. He said the disaster has badly impacted the economy as 85% households in Gojal depend on agriculture for livelihood. He said 80 crore of annual incomes were made from the marketing of potato which is not possible now due to the blockade of KKH. He said the estimated annual spending on education is more than 27 crore in Goajl Tehsil.
Faryad Ali, representative of the affected people of Attabad expressed satisfaction on the support provided by government and other agencies after the disaster. He however stressed the need to accelerate the process of the permanent settlement of the 144 families living in school camps. He said the previous government failed to give any alternate solution to the threatened community.
“We don’t fear lack of Dal-Chawal but are worried about the education of the future generation” , said Aslam Khan, representative of the affected people of Ayeenabad and Shishkat. He said the lake advancement has so far displaced 32 families in Ayeenabd and 19 families in Shishkat Payeen and many are still threatened.