GILGIT: About 200 people displaced by the Attabad Lake called off the protest in which they were threatening to kill themselves when they were convinced that the government would address their demands in a week’s time.
The protests were sparked by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s failure to announce a relief package during his visit on Friday. They were called off when DC Hunza, Zafar Taj held negotiations with the protestors and assured them that they would be compensated for their losses within a week.
“We are conditionally calling off the protest for one week but if the government does not listen to our grievances, we will resume it,” said one of the protestors.
People demanded compensation and provision of facilities in camps.
Moreover, another landslide took place on Saturday, about 80 kilometres (km) from Skardu in Shaingus. Several houses were destroyed and livestock killed. However, the extent of the damage could not be ascertained owing to the remoteness of the area.
Meanwhile, authorities said that water is likely to start overflowing from the lake by the 25th of this month, arrangements for which are in place, they added. People stranded due to the lake are being airlifted to safe areas.
The displaced people were expecting announcements of compensation from the prime minister. “Gilani only offered lip-service which disappointed us,” said one of the affectees amid anti-Pakistan Peoples Party slogans on Friday soon after the prime minister boarded his helicopter to fly back to Islamabad.
During his visit, Gilani said that the government will compensate people after a detail assessment of the damage. “If not now when will the government complete the assessment and release compensation to the affectees,” questioned a charged crowd in Ganish, the village beyond which government has restricted movement of people, declaring the area dangerous.
According to latest information, water is just over two metres short of overflowing from the lake. It is feared that the spillover would inundate more than 35 villages downstream. The flow of water from glaciers is continuously increasing the water level in the lake.
According to government sources, water inflow into the lake is 2,500 cusec while outflow is more than 200 cusec. The level of water in the 19-km long lake is rising by 3.8 feet a day.
APP quoted the National Disaster Management Authority spokesperson, Brigadier Sajid Naeem, as having said that the registration of people affected by Attaabad Lake has started in Gilgit and Hunza while medical supplies have been handed over to the Gilgit-Baltistan government. Moreover, organisations such as Red Crescent and World Health Organisation have also provided medical assistance, he added.
Talking to a private news channel, Naeem said that a number of control rooms have been set up to provide necessary information to the affected people.
He said that 426 affected families comprising 3,198 people in Hunzanagar and 10,124 people in district Gilgit have been registered.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah blamed the opposition parties for ‘exploiting’ the situation to gain political mileage. He said that the government was doing what it could to help the people.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2010.