[Letter] Three phases of Hunza Disaster

IT seems that people are still confused about the disaster that unfolded after the landslide in Attabad in Hunza on Jan 4. The media and government organisations are still groping in the dark regarding the plight of the affected people in Gojal.

This disaster has three phases that struck the region and needs to be analysed properly.

The first phase started when the landslide hit Attabad on Jan 4, killing 19 people on the first day, and two more weeks later destroying 43 houses, property, land, a community centre, a school and a dispensary and livestock.

The loss of lives could have been avoided had people been evacuated before the disaster. This could have been possible because experts/geologists had predicted the disaster in 2003.

The disaster has displaced 1,300 people, now living in camps. Their basic demands are compensation and their rehabilitation.

They should be compensated for their losses and be facilitated to start their social and economic life again. Education of their children must be financed till they are rehabilitated.

The second phase of the disaster started when the landslide blocked the lifeline of Pakistan and the most important communication link with China — the Karakoram Highway (KKH) — cutting off 25,000 people of Gojal from the rest of the country. It also blocked the Hunza River.

For the last five months water has accumulated in the lake and is advancing towards Gojal tehsil, submerging one village, Ayeenabad, completely and Shishkat Payeen and low-lying areas of Gulmit, Ghulkin and Hussaini, partially.

The second phase of the disaster — which could be described as manmade — has started submerging cultivable land, thousands of fruit trees, houses, shops, schools, wood factories, hotels and land, leading to an increase in the miseries of the people of Gojal. The water is headed for Passu.

Now let’s come to the third phase, i.e the possible destruction if the lake bursts its banks with the water overtopping the spillway.

The administration has made preparations and evacuated people from 13 villages in low-lying areas of Hunzanagar and Gilgit district.

They have not suffered any loss, but are now living an uncertain life in camps.

Looking at the relief and rehabilitation of the affected people and how this situation has been tackled by the government and NGOs, some genuine questions may arise: Whether the affected people are being treated equally? Whether the priority of relief and rehabilitation set is fair? Whether all the affected people, especially from Gojal, have access to the media?

All efforts are concentrated on the people hit by the landslide who are, of course, the ones affected the most but they are not the only ones.

There are 141 families with a population of 1,652, compared to the affected people of the second phase who are approximately 3,500 families with a population of 25,000. They are being ignored by the media and relief agencies.

The reason being they have no access to the government because of living upstream of the lake and no one bothers to go there. The media has been restricted to central Hunza.

No one is talking about rehabilitation of the displaced people of Shishkat, Ayeenabad, Gulmit and Ghulkin.

They are not getting any health facilities and no relief item has reached them. No one is listening to their grievances.

Many political leaders’ preferred an aerial view of the area which has been damaged badly rather than going there and comforting those who have been affected.

The people of Gojal should have been equally treated and provided relief. But the damage and losses in the most important tehsil of Hunza-Nagar district are being ignored.


Source: DAWN

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  1. “The loss of lives could have been avoided had people been evacuated before the disaster. This could have been possible because experts/geologists had predicted the disaster in 2003.”

    Why didn’t the residents leave? Is it like Apartheid South Africa where movement was greatly restricted? There have been other cultures restrict movement.

    That said, anytime I am in an area with steep slopes, I understand there are hazards.

    “The disaster has displaced 1,300 people, now living in camps.”

    On the one hand I read about all the nice communities in the area, but now, on the other hand, it’s like no one should live there.

    Natural disasters happen.

  2. You say that the IDP’s of Danyore and Gilgit have faced no loss, however they have been moved from their homes, schools and agriculture creating a huge amount of disruption. They have also lost crops because of having to leave the land. Now they have land that is dried up because they haven’t been able to water the ground, crops are left unharvested and the land is not in a good condition for the next growth. This is a loss that will not be compensated.

    And besides this, what about their lose of privacy and respect in the camps?

  3. Sher Khan, Baktullah and other team members. Good to see reflection of what you guys were talking in the meeting.

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