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.
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