ALMOST 17 months have passed since the disaster caused by the gigantic landslide at Attabad, Hunza, on Jan 4, 2010.
This disaster did not only take the lives of 20 people but 25,000 people of upper Hunza, Gojal Majesty, are still suffering from the disaster. Their misery seems to be unending.
The huge landslide blocked the flow of Hunza River and as a result a 24-kilometre-long lake was formed at upstream areas. Consequently, almost 23 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway, along with dozens of bridges, submerged in the
newly-formed lake and cut the upper part of Hunza off from the rest of the country.
Similarly, hundreds of houses, thousands of canals of land along with other properties came under water. This situation caused multidimensional implications for the people of the area such as economic, educational, health and so on.
First, this disaster posed a serious challenge for the people to survive economically because they could not transport their agriculture products, such as potatos, to the other parts of the country as it was the main source of income for them.
The people who were earning from transportation, shops and hostelling also suffered because local and international tourists could not travel to the area due to the lake.
Secondly, there is not a single functioning hospital in the area. People used to visit hospitals in central Hunza or Gilgit before the disaster.
However, because of the lake it has become a challenging task for patients to travel. Several deaths have been reported due to lack of health facilities.
Thirdly, the people of the area are much motivated and eager to give education to their children, but because of the financial crisis many students are unable to get or continue their education.
Although the government announced a year ago it would compensate students, but no such thing has happened so far. Soon after the landslide, the authorities concerned had announced several deadlines to reduce the debris of the landslide and
open the KKH.
But not much progress has yet been made in this regard. Such delays do not only increase the sufferings of the people but also cause a huge loss to the country as the KKH is the only land route for trade between China and Pakistan. The president,
the prime minister and the chief of the army staff should take personal interest in this matter to end the sufferings of the affected people.
MUHAMMAD ALI, Karachi
Published in Daily Dawn on May 21, 2011
The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is a strategic road for Pakistan. It is used by national as well as international traffic since it provides for a land border between Pakistan and China. And for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, it provides a crucial land link to the rest of the country.
However, in recent years, it has suffered considerably from the elements. And while this is only to be expected, given the harsh terrain and unpredictable weather of the regions it traverses, what is worrying is that those in charge of its maintenance do not seem to be doing their job.
The highway is badly damaged in some places and the result is that while previously it would take between 15-16 hours to travel from Islamabad to Gilgit by bus, now it takes well above 20. Moreover, a large stretch of the highway between central Hunza and Upper Hunza remains blocked for the last 20 months because of the massive landslide at Attabad.
Because of this, people are suffering economically and even health wise, due to a shortage of medicines or because they cannot easily reach a hospital. Once travelling on the KKH was considered a thing not to miss out on, but now it is a positively painful experience. Of course, this cannot be good for one of the regional economy’s mainstays: Tourism.
Published in Express Tribune on July 27, 2011