The 4/1 Attabad landslide disaster can be deemed as a source of enormous changes in the social and economic set up of the people of Gojal valley. This incident has not only damaged hundreds of acres of agricultural land but has also compelled the residents to leave the place where they were residing for decades.
“It is difficult rather than tricky to start a new life with different people and surroundings but thanks to the generous local volunteers to half their belonging with their IDP brother and sisters”, a village elder commented. While having an immediate impact on the social and economic lives of the communities it has also resulted in a huge psychological shock for the people of each age group and has taken the communities more than a decade back. “While working even in the hot summer days I had built shops, small restaurants for my children but I lost them all in no time”, a village elder commented.
Waiting for the water level to recede from their houses, crop lands and gardens, the people of the submerged areas regularly come to see the water level and share their sympathy, anger and frustration with each other. During my field trip on another project to the area I got enough time to observe and record the agony/ecstasy of the IDPs, though Iwas a part of the same group, while shifted the belongings and household equipments from my own house and my uncle’s house more than 4 times from one place to another and my family still waiting for the next destination.
This incident has traumatized the household heads, specifically the old age people, as according to a villager, ”I have got such a huge shock that I am unable to understand from where to start?”. Another village elder commented,”It was really hard for me to do the arrangements for the Livestock especially for the fodder storage and shed for the cattle taken off from the pasture. Though I have got enough place to live with my family but I will first arrange for the livestock and in the end I will have to think for the permanent shelter for my family. The sever weather condition do not allow us to do any activity though there are so many things to be done”.
I saw so many women coming to see their destructed houses again and again while weeping and hugging each on their ways. “I am trying to arrange the things in my new place but still I am unable to get the stuffs on their rite places. Sometimes I get frustrated and I used to go to my destructed house and weep for a long time”, A young mother expressed. I used to ask women the reason of their visit to the submerged area. While answering my question most of the women responded that they were there just to see the water level as water has receded from most of the area and it is good to see the tracks again on which they used to walk.
The IDPs are living with uncertain conditions. As according to a woman from Shishkat, “we have lost everything (i.e. shelter, crop land, forest land etc.). We are even not left with a small piece of land on which we could construct a single room. My family is living in one room and our stuffs are in camps”.
The displacement has affected the children of every age group. I observed that most of the kids come to the submerged area and spend most of their time while playing cricket and football. “We have been shifted to Chamangul (a muhallah of Gulmit) and it is really had for me to take my kids back to Chamangul in the evening as they come to Goze instead of Chamangul just after the school hours”,a young mother commented.
I saw a boy of 10 years named Shaharyar, weeping on his way to Chamangul. When I asked his mother, she said, “my son wants to live in Goze with his uncle and the problem is that there are already more than 20 persons living in the same house”.
Abdul Bari a student of class 2, whose family, has also been displaced from Goze to Chamangul. Bari’s new home is very far his school, which takes almost an hour for Bari to reach his school. I asked him, are you happy in Chamangul? He answered, “Goze was good…my school is now very far and I have to get up early in the morning… it is not much difficult to reach my school but it is really tiresome to reach home. … my little brother comes with me and on the way back to home he could not walk with me as the area Is very steep”. I asked him, how do you make your little brother to walk with you? He smiled and said, “I sometime wait for him for long time and sometime I walk faster than him and from a far distance I call him and say Shayan, I have sweets in my bag, I lie him and in this way he start walking a bit faster and I apply this trick from time to time”.
The disaster has fragmented the Community from the submerged area to different parts of Gulmit. “We really miss our people during different ceremonies”. An Old woman said.
Despite the damages caused by the calamity, the people of the area are looking towards their future with great hope, as according to a village elder; “we are hopeful that with the release of water we will again rebuild our homes and lands with the help of well-wishers. We saw the flood affectees in the lower part of the county where people are just with nothing even they don’t have a drop of safe water to drink”.
Although we are approaching towards the first anniversary of the 4/1 catastrophe but the displaced people of the submerged area are still with the same indecisive conditions and waiting for the Government to keep its promises. They are still hopeful that the Government of the time will ensure immediate release of water from the lake so the displaced families could start normal lives.
Ms. Shakila Parveen is a young development professional and hails from Goze, the submerged part of Gulmit.