Flooding in Hunza

Editorial May 19, 2010

There is much that can be said about the flooding in the Hunza valley, including much criticism that can be levelled at any number of people, but first a word of thanks to the flood forecasting division (FFD) of the Pakistan Meteorological Department for its timely warnings about the possibility of fresh landslides. The FFD was not able to predict the first landslide that killed 19 people in Attabad on January 4 of this year, creating an artificial lake in the area. However, on March 3, it issued an advisory saying that perhaps the explosives used in 'blasting' along certain sections of the Karakoram Highway may have been partly to blame for the landslide. Perhaps more importantly, the FFD continued to monitor the situation and in late March issued a critical disaster alert. Attabad’s residents were told to begin evacuating on May 15.

As many as 36 villages around the Attabad Lake are under threat from being submerged, affecting nearly 18,000 people. The government is in the process of coordinating the safe evacuation of people in the affected area before the next flood, expected to hit the area on May 26. While there have been complaints that not enough assistance is being provided to the evacuees, if there are no further casualties by the time the next landslide/flood hits the area, we would consider at least part of the government’s job as well done. But there are several questions that need to be answered. For instance, how definitive is the FFD’s assertion that the construction of the KKH is partly to blame? And if it is true, then would it have been possible to have constructed the highway in a safer manner? These are important questions that deserve answers. For now though, we only hope that the people of Hunza can stay safe.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 20th,  2010.


Arshad Alvi | 13 years ago | Reply I personally feel that the earthern spillway will not be able to sustain the eroding effect of the water flowing over the spillway, as such I fear that a wave as high as 150 to 200 ft will be generated from the lake. This will travel down the Indus river and according to my assessment it will affect the KKH down to Thakot. The high wave along with roaring vibrations may damage and at places may submerge the KKH besides generating additional land slides, as such please inform people on television not to travel on KKH till the lake is drained out. Please please please do it immediately before another damage occurs. My geologist friend would be in a better position to describe the after effets for guidance of people...
Altaf Hussain | 13 years ago | Reply People of Gilgit Baltistan and especially people of Hunza are in great difficulty because of an artificial lake which emerged because of a landslide and blockage of river Hunza. The lake is now more than 385 feet deep and more than 24 miles long, and posing a great threat to lives of many villages. People have serious problems with supply of food and other necessary items as scores of people were forced to abandon their homes and seek shelter. The response of authorities, as always, was too little and too late. So far more than 23 people have lost their lives and many more are likely to lose their lives due to conditions and shortage of food, medicine and shelter. In this regard government of China offered to help to remove the debris and clear the way to avoid problems, but authorities did not accept this offer. And tragedy is that the authorities did not do anything themselves until the danger was too great and out of control. They only panicked when experts said that it could threaten Tarbela dam and other important installations. What little has been done by authorities is to ensure that the lake, if it bursts does not pose any threat to Tarbela Dam and other important Pakistani interests. What this means is that people of the area are still at great risk and many could lose their lives. People in Hunza demonstrated after PM visit to different camps in Hunza and nothing has been done except few PHOTOS with affectees. We strongly condemn present government and Army for their ignorance and incompetence toward the deprived people of Karakorum. Karakorum Students Organisation Karakorum International University. Gilgit
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