GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Speaker Wazir Beg has said that the relatively soft mountains of Attabad dam have deprived the region of a ready-made natural water reservoir which would otherwise have fulfilled the electricity needs of the country.
He was referring to the artificial lake formed on January 4 when a massive landslide blocked the flow of the Hunza river, submerging several villages and killing around 20 people. “Had the mountains of Attabad-Hunza been made of solid rocks, the possibility of turning the dam into a permanent water reservoir could have been considered,” said Wazir Beg on Friday. He said the weak composition of mountains could not sustain the pressure of a huge water reservoir.
Speaker Wazir Beg and Governor Dr Shama Khalid were in Attabad, about 150 kilometres from Gilgit, on Friday to accompany Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who was scheduled to visit Attabad and Gilgit. However, the visit could not materialise due to inclement weather. Speaker Beg came down hard on, what he called, “rumourmongers”, saying they were out to malign the PPP-led government in the region. “Such elements are trying to disrupt peace of the region by unnecessarily criticising the government,” he said, referring to statements by some opposition leaders who called the government “inept”.
Speaker Beg ruled out the possibility of the 16-kilomtre-long lake bursting its banks. “Some debris will remain at the site for good, making a small lake a permanent feature of the landscape,” he added. “Building a dam requires billions of rupees and in this case the amount required for the rehabilitation of the displaced people is much less than that,” he said. The artificial lake has submerged huge parts of the strategic Karakoram highway (KKH) (the only link between Pakistan and China) at two points, leaving more than 25,000 people of Upper Hunza stranded. Speaker Beg said that it would take time for water to cross over the barrier that has trapped it since January 4.
According to an official, the lake is now at least 16 kilometres long and more than 1.5 kilometres wide. About 50 feet of debris is still there to let the water flow from the spillway that is being constructed by Pakistan Army engineers. If Attabad lake bursts its banks, at least 36 villages could be submerged and the gushing water could wash away parts of the KKH. In Islamabad, the Chinese embassy said in statement that it would provide all possible assistance to Pakistan for the relief of people affected by the Attabad lake. “Since the occurrence of the Hunza landslide, the government and people of China have been making every effort to assist Pakistan in disaster relief work,” said a statement issued by the Chinese embassy on Friday.
It said China has made special arrangements to open the Khunjerab border pass to facilitate purchase and customs clearance of relief goods from China. The Chinese Embassy, on behalf of the China Red Cross Society, donated $30,000 to the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to assist residents stranded in Hunza. “China will continue to stand with the Pakistan government and people in tackling this natural disaster. We will work closely with Pakistan and provide all possible support,” the statement said.( ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM PPI )
Published in the Express Tribune, May 15th, 2010.
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