ISLAMABAD: Helicopter service to the calamity-hit Gojal valley will resume from next week to facilitate stranded people, Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Acting Governor Wazir Baig told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
Army, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) will operate the helicopter service to Gojal valley for two months, when the water in the lake will be drained out and the 17 kilometres stretch of the submerged Karakoram Highway (KKH) rehabilitated.
The remaining seven kilometres of KKH will remain submerged, the governor said. As an alternative, the Chinese engineers willconstruct a tunnel to restore the trade and tourism link between Pakistan and China, he added.
The strategic link between the two countries was disrupted by the January 5, 2010 landslide at Attabad, Hunza. The debris obstructed the river flow and created a 23-kilometre-long lake. The lake submerged three villages and a 23-kilometre stretch of the KKH, cutting off about 25,000 people upstream.
After the landslide people were forced to rely on boats to travel through the lake. But the boat service was suspended when the lake froze in the winter.
Baig said the army, NDMA, and AKF will operate the helicopter service ten days each in a month to facilitate the marooned people of Gojal valley.
The federal centre has provided Rs315 million to the provincial government for the rehabilitation and settlement of the affected people of Attabad, Shishkat, Ayeenabad and Gulmit.
The government has so far disbursed Rs600,000 each compensation among those who were killed in the disaster, said Baig. Pakistan Baitul Mal also gave Rs25,000 to each family, he added.
China provided relief goods including food items, medicines fuel and coal to Gojal sufficient for six months, he said.
The government also provided Rs100,000 to each of the 249 families that lost their property. Similarly, Rs200,000 each was provided to 141 affected families in Sarat and Attabad villages. USAID provided Rs12.8 million to those whose businesses were affected. But the delay in draining out the lake frustrates many residents.
Governor Baig, who is also the Speaker of the G-B Legislative Assembly, said that the provincial government has made plan for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the more than 200 affected families of Shishkat, Ayeenabad, Sarat and Attabad (the villages destroyed or submerged in the aftermath of the landslide).
A model town with all modern civic facilities, Baig said, will be set up at Jutal, 30km from Gilgit, for the resettlement of the affected people.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2011.