Skip to main content

Lake Wreaks Havoc on Fragile Mountain Economy

Published on: Dawn News
 
The disaster that struck Attabad in Hunza early this year wreaked havoc on the economy of the Hunza-Nagar District, in particular, and GilgitBaltistan, ingeneral.The disruption of Karakoram Highway (KKH) has literally brought all economic activities including trade and tourism, of the region famous for picturesque tourist spots, to a grinding halt because of the lake formed at Attabad.
The blockage of Hunza River and creation of a lake which has now swollen into a surging reservoir with its length spreading over an area of 25 kilometres submerging three villages – Ayeenabad, Shishkat, Gulmit, Ghulkin — in Gojal Tehsil and damaging houses, property and business.
The lake is now heading towards Passu. The inhabitants of Ghulkin overlooking Gulmit, headquarter of Gojal, which is the largest and strategically important tehsil of HunzaNagar District, are feeling its impact. The lake has submerged over 165 houses, 120 shops, 10 hotels, three community centres, three schools, two wood factories and crop fields, fruit trees, displacing over 2,000 people. According to available statistics, 25,766 passengers, both domestic and foreigners, travelled through KKH via Khunjerab pass during 2009. This however, excludes a great many others who exclusively visited Gojal for treks.
The calamity caused heavy losses to the mountain agriculture. Cash crop and fruits entirely went down the drain. The cumulative losses incurred both in terms of agricultural and fruit yield was over Rs1 billion.To top them all is the hampering of the SinoPakistan trade that literally pushed the region into an economic backwater.
It is pertinent to point out that the total trade volume during the preceding year was around Rs2.6 billion (imports Rs2587.596 and exports worth Rs13.291 million).
The overtopping of water through the spillway has allayed the fears of the downstream populace. Still if things go out of hand, there will be colossal loss in terms of Gilgit-Baltistan’s fragile economy.
This certainly calls for evolving a prudent strategy to come to grips with any such full-blown nightmare.The suspense has been creating fears and rumours despite all arrangements made by the government to allay such fears. The ominous suspense is like the stillness before the storm. Prospects of a breach are not ruled out given the enormous size of the water body. But the river basin downstream has apparently the capacity to absorb the flows from a breach if it is not in the shape of a tidal wave. However as many as 36 villages on the low-lying areas may be wholly or partially inundated.
The local government has so far moved residents of the low-lying areas to safer places in the downstream accommodating them in tents all along the danger-prone area. It is said that about 15,000 people would be affected in the event of a sudden burst of the lake.Thus, the inevitable will have taken place by the time this piece appears in print.
If the Karakoram Highway (KKH) is damaged on a large scale downstream, the entire area would plunge into what may be called an economic backwater.
The lake scenario has now come to centre-stage in both national and international media. The satellite images of the mountain range where Attabad is nestled in upper Hunza val ley released sometime back by NASA brought to the fore the impending threat the geographic location of the lake poses. Zoomed to close view, the lake has swollen to the size of a dam with the summer snow and glacial melt. Not very far is Khunjerab bordering China and the Wakhan Corridor via Chipursan valley, again converging on the Chinese frontiers at Kilik-Minteka pass.
It is said that the region has suffered instability since the extensive dynamiting for the construction of the KKH. A report in the press way back in March 2003 said that mild tremors had been shaking Attabad since November 2002 when the hamlet was first rocked. It triggered periodic soil erosions causing clefts and chasms.
Smaller but similar lakes were also formed in the past at Gulmit, Khalti in Ghizer and Gashoo in Sai of Gilgit District. They have become a permanent feature.
The administration has made ar rangements to tide over any eventuality ranging from food security to other allied measures. It is part of these precautionary measures that the arterial Bailey bridge linking Danyore with Gilgit city too has been removed temporarily. With this, the pressure on the existing suspension bridge has increased enormously while heavy vehicles like buses meant for carrying schoolchildren, which were earlier plied between Gilgit, and Danyore now stand parked at Karakoram International University (KIU) to ensure pick and drop facility from Gilgit until that point. While traffic meant for Hunza and Nagar has been halted by the administration clamping an emergency to avoid any untoward incident when the flow starts.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Gilgit-Baltistan – A Historical Narrative

BySyed Shamsuddin

Perceptibly, there abound divergent narratives and counter narratives wittingly or unwittingly churned out as to status of Gilgit-Baltistan which more often than not, have no bearing on and are sadly devoid of any substance when put in the correct historical perspective. In order to get the best and clearest possible picture, it becomes imperative to have a full view of and delve deeper into its background with a view to irrefutably place facts connected with the matter in the correct historical order by separating what is called the wheat from the chaff for the information of the readers as follows:
Strictly speaking, the region fell on turbulent times and troublous waters during the second half of the nineteenth century which may, with profit, be called the period of uncertainty and the gloomiest transitional phase in Gilgit-Baltistan’s context. Synoptically, region consisted of and apportioned into a dozen tiny kingdoms each ruled by despotic, independent rulers f…

Foiling India’s Inimical Designs

BySyed Shamsuddin A very interesting summation, aptly encompassing has been going on in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) overtime in socio-political context, was published in a regional Urdu daily the other day. The learned writer offered a peep into the brief historical background of the region dating to the post-independence period, and referred precisely to what happened preceding the liberation of Gilgit-Baltistan. Beginning with briefly recording of the facts about how the British colonizers packed off by giving back the territory of Gilgit, in August 1947, to the Dogra occupiers, quite intriguingly with the condition that the latter would retain Major William Brown – a British military officer – to assign him the command of Gilgit Scouts. The move was ostensibly aimed at checking effectively and blocking Russo-China contacts, as well as to preclude Gilgit region from the impact of communists inroads into this land.
After the successful revolution of 1st November 1947, Gilgit emerged as a…

Eulogizing The Protectors of Culture and Tradition

BySyed Shamsuddin QUITE PROPITIOUSLY, a flurry of activities is getting underway in the context of revival of Shina language in its original form and diction. This is in addition to the marked efforts afoot to build a consensus among the literary circles formed by Shina speaking communities all across the Shina speaking areas – mostly inhabiting northern Pakistan and part of the Indian held Kashmir- to popularize and universalize a homogenized approach to a unified code aimed at sustaining and preserving this language which is sadly on the wane.
To give a recent example, Shakil Ahmad Shakil carried out a research work culminating in his products like ‘dade shilokeh’ (grandmas’s tales) and Shina Grammar, Aziz-ur-Rehman Malangi’s Shina Diwan and to top them all is Haji Shah Mirza’s translation of the Holy Qura’an into Shina which is greatly contributive to the existing literature in Shina. There is no gainsaying that viewed in terms of it originality of form, diction and etymology, Shin…