Mon. Jun 14th, 2021

[Opinion] Living with risks at the banks of Gilgit River

by Syed Tajdar Hussain

A visit today of Gilgit River (known as Hanisara in the local Shina language) and flood hit areas of Gilgit city, from Basin Khare to Domiyal, exposed the vulnerability of people living or running commercial enterprises near the river banks.

As observed, majority of the stalled people had constructed their houses along the river bank and were highly vulnerable to the river flooding due to heavy rain fall in the catchment areas. It has been raining from last three to four days continuously in the vicinities of Gilgit city, as well as other parts of the region, increasing water level in the river. The increased water level has led to soil erosion on the river bank resulting in water flow in low laying constructed houses along the river basin.

According to meteorological department rain will continue for further two days.

Based on analysis of surging water level during the past few days,  it can be deduced that the situation would be more dangerous to the population near the river bank.

Increasing number of people during the last few years have started constructing houses on the river banks, due to increase in population and availability of land on lower prices along river bank. Most of the people living on river banks have migrated to Gilgit city from other parts of the region. Crowded habitation makes the river basin narrower which may result in human disaster in case of floods.

The local government needs to take steps to ban building on the river bank sites. Importance also needs to be given to construction of concrete defense walls on the river bank to safe guard the livelihood and economy of the region for future generations. In the long run the inhabitants of the area can adopt the following suggestions to minimize the hazards as under.

This impact would be reduced if communities properly manage and take initiatives to plant trees on the catchment slopes that are susceptible to sliding and flooding, the native communities in their respective villages can identify those areas which are highly vulnerable to the flood and then coordinate with concerned departments for sowing and planting suitable endemic species which can control land sliding or resist the heavy hazards to some extent. In this way communities not only save their life, live stock and agricultural land but also enjoy their livelihood within a free polluted, lush green environment.

The most appropriate plant specie for flood control in Gilgit Baltistan is Sea buckthorn, a bushy shrub freely growing in sandy areas where water is available. This shrubby plant not only control flash flood due to its soil binding capacity but also provides mean of income generation to the communities if properly managed, because of its high market value. This plant is named as magic plant and declared as plant of the millennium. Other native plant species abundantly grow in Gilgit Baltistan that can grow easily on the disaster risky slopes can provide shelter to the hundreds of beneficial organisms on one hand and on the other increase aesthetic value of the area and minimize disasters impact.

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