Wed. Dec 2nd, 2020

Chitral: How the locals are removing snow from a power station covered with avalanche!

A local volunteer showers water on the 100 feet high avalanche debris to reach to a water channel at the bottom of the debris

People holding a water pipe and rope to which the volunteers are tied and lowered into the vertically dug hole
Chitral: People holding a water pipe and rope to which the volunteers are tied and lowered into the vertically dug hole

By Gul Hamaad Farooqi

Chitral, April 8: An avalanche hit a power house in Chitral Valley on 18th March 2014. This resulted in suspension of water supply to the Power House and also blocked the water channel that supplies water for irrigation to the neighbouring area. Almost 15,000 people got affected due to the suspension of electricity and unavailability of water for irrigation.  This led to severe load shedding in the region. Electricity would not be available for as long as 18 hours every day.

After waiting for the government to action for some weeks, the local residents of Majgoal and Reshun village took it upon themselves to remove the avalanche debris. It was not going to be an easy task and the locals knew it.  

How they are doing is full of risks, however.

A local volunteer showers water on the 100 feet high avalanche debris to reach to a water channel at the bottom of the debris
Chitral: A local volunteer showers water on the 100 feet high avalanche debris to reach to a water channel at the bottom of the debris

Two volunteers have started digging the snow avalanche debris to construct a tunnel that leads them to the water channel. Both of them do the digging, while hanging from a rope securely tied around their body. At least six people hold the rope to ensure that the volunteers do not fall inside the tunnel that they have dug. One of the volunteers showers water on the avalanche debris inside the vertically dug hole while hanging form the rope.

The volunteers perform the excavation while hanging dangerously to ropes.
Chitral: The volunteers perform the excavation while hanging dangerously to ropes.

The locals said that the current depth of the hole is around 80 feet. The temperature at the bottom of the hole is several degrees below the freezing point. The temperature is likely to drop further as they dig deeper. The avalanche debris is believed to be 200 feet high and spread one square kilometre wide.

The volunteer have dug several holes in the snow-covered water channel in their attempts to make the water flow again.

Salahuddin and other volunteers of Mojgoal area told this scribe that they are putting their lives at risk. They thanked Assistant Commissioner Mastuj Minhasuddin who visiting the site frequently to encourage them.

The volunteers have dug up to 80 feet deep in the avalanche debris. The temperature at the bottom of the hole is several degrees below the freezing point
Chitral: The volunteers have dug up to 80 feet deep in the avalanche debris. The temperature at the bottom of the hole is several degrees below the freezing point

Line Superintendent of Reshun Power House Akhtar Nawaz Khan said that they have earmarked rupees 40, 000 for clearing the avalanche. The amount allocated for the gigantic task at hand is peanuts. He said that they collect around 3.5 million rupees monthly from their consumers, selling each unit of electricity for 3 rupees to WAPDA. He also said that PESCO sells the electricity for 5-10 rupees per unit to the consumers. 

Experts contractors and local people said that the task undertaken by the locals is highly risky. They said that digging holes well in a one kilometer long and 200 feet high avalanche debris is not easy and if the work had been undertaken by the Constructions and Works department it will have costed them more than 4 million rupees.

Resident of the area paid glowing tributes to the volunteers who have risked their lives to ensure restoration of water and electricity. The locals have demanded allocation of more funds for the project. 

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