Kashif Hafeez Siddiqui

Hunza :Thousands face displacement if lake bursts its banks

In pakistan on May 13, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Flooding caused by an overflowing lake, formed after a landslide blocked the River Hunza in northern Pakistan in January, has forced hundreds from their homes, and threatens to displace thousands more.

According to media reports, 88 houses in Aeenabad and Shashkat villages, and two bridges, have been swept away. The two areas were cut-off by the floods.

The water has reached Gulmit, the largest town in Gojal sub-district of Hunza-Nagar District.

“The situation is quite critical. About 13,000 people in the affected area face displacement,” Noor Muhammad, of the NGO Focus Humanitarian Assistance, which has been monitoring the situation in Hunza, told IRIN.

He said organized evacuations had not begun but people had been moving away. “People need to be relocated to safe areas. The situation is quite dangerous.” Nine sites, including government schools and other buildings, had been identified for housing people, he added.

According to a 30 April humanitarian update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some “200 people had been relocated as a precaution”.

The lake is 16km long and 350 metres wide. Water is pouring into it at the rate of 2,500 cubic metres per day, according to media reports. The lake does not have an appropriate spillway, so there is a risk it could suddenly burst its banks.

The Pakistan army’s Frontier Works Organization has been attempting since January to create a spillway, but is now likely to stop work, according to Muhammad, due to rising water levels in the lake and the threat of flooding.

The 4 January landslide caused at least 13 deaths and blocked the river in the Attabad area. The lake that formed cut road links to Gojal, resulting in food shortages there. If the lake bursts its banks, flash floods could cause havoc downriver.

“Confusion”

“The situation in the affected area has been very grim for months. People are terrified of floods, and those in Gojal have had to depend on many items from China at high cost as links to Pakistan have been cut off,” Ali Ahsan, a resident of Hunza, told IRIN on the phone.

“Panic is now mounting. Goods were reaching them by boat but now these have stopped running due to a fuel shortage,” he said.

Since the landslide, over 1,000 displaced people from Attabad village and nearby areas have been living in makeshift camps. In March, the governor of Gilgit-Baltistan, a non-self-governing territory, declared Gojal sub-district in Upper Hunza Region “disaster hit”, and said the government was “fully prepared to deal with any situation”.

“We are still awaiting instructions on what to do next. There is a lot of confusion,” Muhammad Ali, 40, a resident of Hunza town, said. “People who lost cattle and property in the landslide need more help.”

Source : kh/at/cb source.irinnews

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The overflowing Hunza lake does not pose any threat to Tarbela dam which has sufficient capacity to store additional water.

Sources in the Indus River System Authority said the water level in Tarbela currently stood at about 1,388 feet, just above the dead level of 1,378 feet, that meant it still had more than 160 feet of capacity to be filled.

They said the storage level could be raised by 10 feet a day till such time it reached 1,500 feet.

When Tarbela’s storage level crosses 1,500 feet, safety requires it to be filled at the rate of two feet a day.

The sources said Wapda had not intimated it about any decision to release water from the dam in anticipation of any unusual water inflows.

On Tuesday, Irsa increased water releases to Sindh from 60,000 cusec to 70,000 cusec to meet its additional irrigation requirements and Balochistan’s share has been enhanced to 6,000 cusec from 2,000.

The sources said a delay in undertaking a study to assess the impact of rising water level at Hunza had fuelled apprehensions that the lake might overflow and people in large areas in downstream Hunza had moved to other places.

They said the water level at Hunza had increased to 314 feet and the lake had expanded to over 15 kilometres.

The sources said an official of the federal flood commission who had supervised the study had been sent to the National Disaster Management Authority on deputation despite initial opposition by the NDMA.

Source : http://www.dawn.com

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  1. It could build up into a much larger calamity,if it breaks, it could flood area as large as 300km & can hit tarbala dam. The lake looks horrible even in pics & videos, like a fullfledge dam. Our sympathies are with the homeless in afected hunza valley, who maybe, never be able to return to their old homes.

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