Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

Hunza disaster: critique and lessons learned

by Azam Beg Tajik

As Attabad is the direct hit area it bore the main brunt resulting in loss of life, property, farm lands, orchards and livestock and causing displacement of the population of the affected area. The massive landslide blocked Hunza River completely. As a result, the geographically largest Tehsil of Gilgit-Baltistan, Gojal, upper Hunza, has been cut-off from the rest of the country and the world as a long stretch of the KKH has been submerged. The blockage has placed a population of 25,000 people in Gojal at great danger facing severe medical, food, transportation and livelihood scarcity. The damaged KKH and submersion of cultivable lands (approximately 40,000 kanals so far) has destroyed the source of survival of the affected people. The trade between China and Pakistan and tourism industry have caused a loss of Rs3 billion in border trade activities and approximately Rs2 billion in tourism industry.

The impact on downstream Hunza, Nagar, Gilgit, Diamer, Basham, Batagram, Mansehra, Tarbela Dam can be imagined if one remembered the experience of 1858 landslide disaster. If the blockage bursts, it will hit 36 villages like Ahmedabad, Ganish, Rahimabad, Shayar, Sumayer, Askordas and others in Gilgit and Diamer districts. Due to precautionary measures, the authorities have evacuated the population from these villages and established IDP camps. The scale of disaster and impact is expected as the worst scenario case, which will wash away the properties, agricultural lands famous fruit tree, KKH and bridges and the important geological sites by affecting more then 50,000 population directly, and two million indirectly.

The role of government and other agencies in this calamity has been less than satisfactory. The federal government, NDMA and FCNA responded well in terms of showing presence at the scene on the second day, providing helicopter services for evacuation and transportation of goods, but again the local administration misled the officials about the realities on ground. The wide spread rumours about the technical survey of the dam, contract with China for breaching the dam and clearing KKH in short time of period, compensation and relief activities were validated by the local administration off the record and during informal discussions. These rumours (wrong/right) benefited the opposition and nationalist parties to gather and create soft image among the affected people for their political interest.

The political parties confined their so-called activities and presence at the IDP camps in Hunza and never looked at the sufferings of 25,000 stranded people upstream and the same figure of IDPs downstream. After four months, when media started giving projection on the disaster, the local and national leadership came forward to do politics on dead bodies. Even the prime minister’s package created confusion among the affected population.

Complete at DAWN

2 thoughts on “Hunza disaster: critique and lessons learned

  1. Really great contribution. The concerned authorities should now open their eyes and concentrate on these problems and do nt declare peaceful people anti-state

  2. Very true and nice contribution…. since the govt. officials have not been bothered yet, even after having devastated situation in the region, and so called representatives of mass (AWAM) are still hammering to pretend that everything is okay. They are trying to have personal-prestige by their Gurus from the federation and totally paying deaf ear to the mass…. Although media played its vital role but it was needed in the very early hours, because strikes and grieves of the residents through out the country were not telecasted.
    Youth of the region has now consensus that representatives of the mass are not responsive unless they are compel through uproar means.
    Considering the disaster mitigation, people of Hunza should realize their richness of community participation (Participatory Development) and platforms of the FOCUS and other CBOs at village level should be re-energized. Because (God forbid) again in any mishap these platforms would relieve otherwise representatives will be behaving the way they are doing……. Although it leads to de-politicization but still is bearable and better…..

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