On the second anniversary of the Attabad disaster that hit the scenic valley, killing 19 people and blocking Hunza River, creating a 23km lake, the affected people are still waiting for the government to drain out the dam water which has severed the valley’s link with the rest of the country.
The lake inundated over 250 houses, shops, community centres farmland including orchards and forests, 23kms of Karakoram Highway and two key bridges badly affecting the economy, environment and social life as well as trade with China. In March 2010, Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) started work on the spillway of the lake immediately after the landslide and declared that it would drain the water by mid-April the same year.
But they have failed even after a lapse of two years to cut the spillway by 100 feet as promised by the FWO that infuriated the affected people upstream. Since the progress was slow,
demonstrations were held in Hunza, Gojal, Gilgit and other cities including Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Two of the demonstrators were killed in a police firing in Hunza in 2011.
Small farmers who used to generate Rs1.25 billion a year from their cash crops before the landslide now depend on relief items from China.
At the government’s request, a World Bank mission visited Attabad Lake in 2010 and suggested hiring an engineer to coordinate activities on the spillway. The team’s recommendations included a mountain hazard mitigation programme to ensure preparedness and response in case of hazards such as landslides, dams, avalanches and earthquakes in future.
There is a need to update the public on progress made on recommendations made by international experts NESPAK and Geological Survey of Pakistan.
Livelihoods for 25,000 people have not been restored and they are receiving relief food and fuel from China. There is still no straight road link from Pakistan to China even two years after the landslide disaster in Attabad in the Karakoram Mountains in Gojal.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2012.