Does Shimshal’s Verjerav Lake threaten CPEC?

By Karim Khan SAKA

Shimshal valley situated in the upper Hunza is not unknown to the majority of Pakistan’s population for many reasons: Primarily it is recognized as the village of mountaineers because this village has produced many world class climbers, who have hoisted the flags of Pakistan on the mighty peaks above 8000mt. late Rajab Shah (Crown of the Karakorams) Mehrban Shah, Qudrat Ali, Shaheen Baig, Fazal Ali, Muhammad Ullah, Muhammad Yousuf, Hasil Shah, Sarwar Ali, Ali Musa, Rehmatullah Baig, Aminullah Baig and Samina Baig are the most famous ones.  Several Dozens of mountaineers from Shimshal have set different records for their bravery in the field of adventure sports.

Secondly, Shimshal valley has a long border with China in the province of Sinkiang that stretches from Khunjerab Pass to K2 peak. Shimshalis are the custodians of this long border and in the history of Pakistan it has never been violated. These peace loving people have infinite love for their homeland Pakistan. Although every year from its grazing zone “Shimshal Pamir” numbers of Yaks cross the border for good but Shimshalis never complain and the government of Pakistan does not remunerate them. Still for the sake of China-Pakistan friendship and peace they tolerate the sort of loss.

Shimshal holds the largest land area in the District of Hunza. It has innumerable glaciers, hundreds of peaks above 6000 – 7000 mt. and beautiful lakes.  But Verjerav Lake is one of the most dangerous and deadly lake, formed as a result of collision of Khurdopin glacier against the rocky mountain, which blocks the river and a big glacial lake, is formed.

Many people are in picture and they know the history of Attabad Lake, formed in 2010 as a result of land sliding. The small village of Attabad was drowned and many people lost their lives. The whole media was focused and people were shifted from the river side villages measuring the risk. But let’s understand that Attabad Lake is merely a tiny lake as compare to Verjerav Lake.

Verjerav Lake, through the course of history has been formed and burst out several times. In late sixties and early 70s, the overflow has inundated all the riverside lands from Shimshal village to the Indus valley all the way down to Kohistan.

According to a recent survey by local members of Focus, Mr. Rehmat ullah Baig, Mr. Daim Baig and Mr. Sifat Karim, approximately 500mt. wide Khurdapin glacier has pressed against the rocky mountain in front and clogged the flow of the river. The height of Khurdapin glacier is measured as 240 mt. at the spillway point and it is incessantly growing higher and higher.    Behind the glacier exists the valley of Khurdapin and Verjerav. If further more Khurdapin glacier mounts in the upcoming months, much gigantically the lake will spread in both valleys up to 24sq.km.

With the surging level of Khurdapin Lake, the fear and anxiety of local people is also escalating up. Some of the organizations like PMD and FOCUS etc. are in picture of the situation from last year but recently no one has bothered to measure the risk and report.

At present, where we all are celebrating the CPEC project between China-Pakistan and we wish it to be a success, at the same time we must not forget to measure the risks of threatening natural disaster, which may cause a huge mess and sabotage the project route.

A feasible solution to this problem would be digging a tunnel on 500 meters through the rocky mountain as permanent spill way to the Shimshal River. Both Government of Pakistan and China should make a joint survey and find a possible way out well before this water bomb gets out of control and blows everything on its way down.  Another speculation is about the speed of Shimshal River. Khurdapin Lake is situated at 5000 mt. and during the summer in case if the flood runs down, it will hit the Attabad Lake situated at 2600 mt. with a piercing speed and it may not resist the pressure.

Let’s see how serious the upcoming glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) is taken by the Federal government and G-B!

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