Officials have downplayed the possibility of a major flood occurring in Attabad in the next three days, as outflow from the ‘landslide lake’ has increased steadily.
“There is no chance of a flood occurring in the next three days as the erosion of the spillway is slow,” said district administrator Hunza, Zamir Abbas on Monday. “But that doesn’t mean that the lake will never breach its banks,” he said, adding, that the danger was still very real and officials were aware of all possibilities.
The slow discharge of lake water from the spillway has overturned expert’s predictions that the area would be flooded 24 hours after the water reached the spillway.
However, despite the slow progress the water is making, the government is keeping close tabs on the situation.
Abbas said that the outflow into the spillway increased to 300 cusecs on Monday as against 150 cusecs recorded on Sunday.
In Gulmit, an upstream village, people razed a semi-submerged Jamat Khana to the ground, taking away whatever remained before the flood could inundate the area. Abbas said that the Gilgit-Hunza section of the Karakoram Highway was kept open on Monday and the Karakoram International University in Gilgit had restarted regular classes which had been suspended due to the imminent flashflood.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Azad Jammu & Kashmir Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan proposed a joint political setup for Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir, suggesting the PM be chosen from one region and the president from the other.
Haider was talking to media in Gilgit on Monday after his arrival from Azad Kashmir.
“Gilgit-Baltistan is an integral part of Kashmir and both these regions have centuries-old historic and cultural ties which can’t be broken. It will be better if a joint setup is granted to both these regions. We will have no objection to it,” said the PM who was also accompanied by Azad Kashmir President Raja Zulqarnain Khan. The AJK President said that he was even willing to abdicate his position for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The PM and President were making their first official visit to Gilgit, from where they flew to Attabad and met with displaced people. They donated Rs 100 million to the affectees along with 250 tents.
To re-establish lost connections between the two regions, Haider said that his government was working to open up road links between Gilgit and Azad Kashmir via Astore. To a question, he said that the Kashmir council and the Gilgit-Baltistan council should be eliminated and both regions should be made more independent.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 1st, 2010.