GILGIT: Compensation for people affected by the Attabad Lake will be released within a week, said Gilgit-Baltistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Ali Akhtar on Sunday.
“We have received the money. Every family will get Rs800,000 within a week,” Akhtar told The Express Tribune.
About 150 families lost their houses, cattle, cultivable land and standing crops when a landslide in early January created a lake by blocking the Hunza River. At least 20 people died and many others were injured. The lake has submerged five villages upstream and the government had to shift nearly 2,000 people from the area.
Despite carving out a drainage spillway in June, the lake is threatening to submerge 36 more villages downstream. It now stretches over 23 kilometres.
“We have planned to increase the depth of the spillway by 30 metres sometime in the next month,” Akhtar said.
Frustrated by uncomfortable life in camps, the displaced people have time and again taken to the streets calling for compensation and have even clashed with the police.
“We hope things will settle down now,” said the minister, adding that the people of Gojal and Hunza should realise constraints faced by the government. The minister said that Hunza people must pay children’s school fees. People, he said, should not depend on the government for everything.
“I must also insist that people must not protest against things like the withdrawal of free boat service,” he said, referring to the protest in this regard in Hunza and Gilgit.
When asked if the government would pay the outstanding amount to Karakoram International University as it had waived the tuition of students belonging to Attabad, he said that the university will be paid the due amount.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.