Mon. Sep 27th, 2021

Gilgit-Baltistan: The House of Hazards

By Dr. Sher Sultan Baig

Landslides, Cloudburst flooding, Debris flow, Glacial Induced flooding, Flash flooding, Riverine flooding, Rock fall, Avalanches and Rock sliding, and any other hazard you can think of, is common in each district of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Being a mountainous region and located on a collision belt, GB encompasses one of the most rugged geological terrains and fragile geomorphology. This part of the world is one of the highest relief regions on the planet Earth. Due to extreme weather pattern the rate of weathering and erosion is exceptionally high.

Each geological hazard needs to be investigated scientifically. The study, mortally, begins with hazard indication, followed by gauging the degree of risk and then a detail hazard assessment. Hazard mapping is an integral part of research which categorizes high risk zones into confirmed hazard (0-1 year), potential hazards (1-5 years), inferred hazards (5-10 years) and safe zones, or areas where hazards are not likely to happen in the foreseeable future.

In mountainous regions scientific based planning is highly important for sustainable and durable development. Construction of roads, tunnels, bridges, schools, government offices and public houses must be done after proper hazard assessment with the help of  geologists and geomorphologists.

During the current floods, preceded by torrential rainfall, several bridges, schools, civil infrastructure and government offices have been damaged due to poor site selection, causing losses of hundreds of millions to the national exchequer. A case in point is the fate of the WAPDA Colony in Diamer, which was flooded mainly because it was located very close to the flood path.

It is requested to the planners and policy makers that all construction must be carried at suitable distance from water courses in the future. Plantation on either side of gorge/nullah is highly recommended which not only safeguards infrastructure but also decrease the velocity and intensity of flood.

The Karakoram International University has a team of Geologists and other professionals who can be used for hazard mapping and risk assessment to avoid losses of life and property in the future.

Dr. Sher Sultan Baig is a faculty member at the Department of Earth Sciences, Karakoram International University (KIU)

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