ISLAMABAD: The visit of the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiaboa has brought joyous tidings to the disaster-hit people of Gojal as he has promised continued support to the marooned people in upper Hunza, for their relief and rehabilitation.
This was stated by Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) acting Governor Wazir Baig, who was given this assurance by the Chinese prime minister himself at the luncheon hosted by President Asif Zardari here on Saturday.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the acting governor said that the Chinese Prime Minister assured him that his government would extend all out support to the affected people of the landlocked area.
“All the ongoing mega development projects in G-B will be completed by the Chinese firms,” Premier Wen assured him, he said.
The 25,000 people of Gojal are cut off from rest of the region in the aftermath of the Attabad landslide that struck the region on January 4, 2010 blocking Karakoram Highway, the strategic link between China and Pakistan and damaging 25 kilometres portion of the highway.
The landslide blocked the course of Hunza River creating a lake upstream that submerged three villages in Gojal, displacing hundreds of people.
Baig, who is also Speaker of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly, said that Chinese firms were also conducting the feasibility study of the Bunji Dam, which after construction, would add about 7,500 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.
He said the Chinese firms are engaged in the ongoing expansion and remodelling of the Karakoram Highway (KKH).
The acting governor said that the Frontier Works Organisation has started work to deepen the 100-feet spillway aimed at draining out the lake water and restoring half of the submerged KKH.
He added that the project would be completed by mid of May and the reconstruction of damaged portion of KKH would be completed in next two years.
The China Bridges and Road Construction Company and National Highway Authority would jointly construct the 25km damaged portion of
Due to this disaster, he said, almost 75 per cent of trade between China and Pakistan had suffered.
Baig added that Chinese government provided food items, tents, medicines and fuel, including 3,500 tons of coal, to meet the requirement of the stranded population in winter. Responding to a question about the delay in distribution of fuel and coal among the people, the governor said “at present the requirement is only 850 tons while the local administration has distributed 600kg coal among each household to meet their immediate demands.”
The Chinese government has also provided 0.2 million litres of oil which was sold and the amount has been deposited with the provincial Disaster Management Authority for emergency use.
The acting governor dispelled the impression that there had been any irregularity in distribution of the fuel, saying that “there might be minor incidents [irregularity] at a lower level, but not at high level”.
There is no shortage of food and fuel in the affected valley, he said.
Presently, the area is cut off from rest of the world as boat services have been suspended due to in the freezing of the lake water.
He assured that the government would arrange helicopter service in case of any emergency. However, the governor admitted that there were no proper health facilities for the 25,000 marooned people. The sole lady doctor, who has been serving in the Tehsil Headquarter Hospital Gulmit, has not yet been given appointment letter as well as her salary for the last three months. He said that there were some issues in the health department and they were working for sending at least three doctors to the area to handle health issues in the winter season.
The acting governor also said that Bahria Foundation had also promised to send some doctors to facilitate the affected population.
Baig further said that two new boats would be purchased soon by Gilgit-Baltistan Transport Corporation and would be ferried on subsidised rate to facilitate the people.
He added that winterised tents would also be distributed among those who have lost their houses.
He said, “There is sufficient food stock to meet the requirement for the next five to six months as World Food Organisation has also provided food for the affected people”.
He added the provincial government has given Rs5 million to the heirs of each victim of the Attabad landslide and an equal amount has been given by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
The federal government has also provided Rs315 million for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of 500 affected people in all the localities. Recently, 141 households in Gulmit were given Rs0.2 million each.
The NDMA has decided to give Rs2 million to each affected family for purchasing land and Rs0.4 million for construction.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2010.