To travel on a chairlift across the remote valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is not the safest option but the only one. Scores of people use the facility to cross rivers, even if it spells risk. Only two days back, eight people drowned in a river in Gaise valley, after the rope holding the chairlift snapped, while it was in the middle of the river. None of the bodies have been recovered so far.
“One cannot imagine how dangerous the journey on these chairlifts can be,” said Masroor Khan, a resident of Astore. “But people have no option but to risk their lives to cross the river,” he said. Despite such glaring odds, the government has not taken any practical steps towards building bridges in the valley, he added.
Most of the chairlifts are hinged on loose and lightweight ropes, which run the risk of snapping anytime. In most cases, there is an overload of passengers in the chairlift. Rehmat Kamal, a lawmaker from Diamer district told The Express Tribune that the condition of the chairlifts in his valley is not up to par but people are forced to use them anyway. “What other option do they have?” he questioned. He further said that the chairlift in Darel-Tangir valley is in dilapidated condition and may result in another tragedy, as nearly 4,000 people depend on the facility to cross the river.
Khaliq further said that one and half years ago, he paid Rs15 million to the executive engineer of Diamer valley for the reconstruction of Doshaal Bridge that was swept away by floods during 2010, but the project has still not been initiated. “Just imagine, I paid funds for early construction of the bridge more than one and half years ago and it’s still pending.” He said that if the chairlift snaps, he would sue the executive engineer for the losses.
When contacted, Minister for Works Bashir Ahmed said that he has instructed the concerned officials to erect signboards on every suspension bridge and chairlift to warn people against overloading. “We hope this will lessen the risk of loss of lives,” he said, adding that the Gaise valley chairlift incident took place due to overloading.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.
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