By Gul Baig Wakhani
Badswat, a small village in the Ishkoman Valley of District Ghizer, is not easily accessible. Locals could only use a makeshift bridge perched over a glacial stream to reach the village. Increased flow of water, owing the rising summer temperature, would sometime simply close the road, shutting the people out.
In such circumstances, the locals had no option other than wading through chilly cold and raging bodies of water gushing down the valley. Needless to say that this posed great risks for lives and limbs of the locals, especially the most vulnerable segments of the society. The villages affected by this lack of access are Badswat, Ganjabad, Bazarkato, Borth, Yazben, Mutramdan, Boq, and Piyakhen). all located in the Kurumbar valley, and home to Wakhi speaking people.
On July 17, 2018, a massive Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) devastated Badswat. Subsequent floods form the same glaciers ruined the means of livelihood of the people, destroyed several houses, damaged cropped fields and left the people helpless. Local administration reports that more then 40 houses ( 30 in Badswat and 10 in the neighboring Bilhanz village) were completely wiped out. A government primary school was also destroyed. The GLOF blocked the Kurumbar river and created a lake which inundated the nearby settlements. The lake still stands today.
I am feeling so anxious about the future of Badswat and Bilhanz flood victims. Potato is the most important cash crop of the region. The farmers have not been able to grow potato because the land has been rendered useless by the flood. Water channels were destroyed by the flood, which have not been repaired yet. The government took more than a month to repair the roads, destroying the area’s economy. For months, the locals relied on ration supplied by humanitarian organizations, most visibly by the Aga Khan Development Network. Local administration also supplied ration and compensated some families, but the damage had already been done.
Long term rehabilitation of the locals and revival of the means of livelihood is a daunting task which nobody wants to shoulder.
How are the people of Kurumbar valley supposed to stand on their feet? Who will look after their needs?
I am perplexed by the continued apathy of the Gilgit-Baltistan government towards the region. Most emphasis has been on lip services, with administration and politicians competing for photo sessions and press releases, without addressing the locals’ basic and fundamental needs. Why are the people of Kurumbar valley being ignored? Is it because of their race? It is because of their language? Is it because they are not a lot in terms of number?
Such is the apathy of the government towards the region that the Chief Minister, who rushes here and there for condolences and attends marriages in his constituency, has not bothered to visit the devastated region even once.
Are the people of Kurumbar valley the children of a lesser god? Is the Chief Minister not responsible for the people of Kurumbar? Is political investment the only priority of the Chief Minister and his government? Is the government racist in its essence?
These are some of the very harsh questions being asked by the people of Kurumbar valley.
Th contributor is a student of BS Chemistry at KIU, Gilgit.