Hunza lake update 15 May 2010
Compiled by: Abdul Nishapuri
Three more towns were inundated Friday due to rising water level in Ataabad lake.
Traffic remains suspended on Karakoram Highway since two days. Hunza Deputy Commissioner Nagar Waqar Taj said rescue operation has been stepped up to reopen the road and it will be opened for traffic till 3:00 pm Saturday if no fresh landsliding occurs. He said operation is underway to remove wooden hanging bridges at four different places in Hunza Nagar to avoid damage in case of expected flooding due to water discharge from Ataabad lake.
The artificial lake formed by a landslide threatens to inundate scores of villages in northern areas and wash away portions of the strategic Karakoram highway connecting the country with China.
Official said thousands of people have been displaced and several thousand face the risk of losing their homes if the lake, formed at Attabad in Gilgit-Baltistan, breaches.
The lake, 25km long and 320 feet deep, on River Hunza was formed on January 4 and the flooding has so far left 25 dead. The lake has submerged a big chunk of the Karakoram Highway and threatens to wash away a number of bridges on the highway. “The trapped water in the lake has touched dangerously high levels. Everyday the water level increases by three feet,” said a top Pakistani army engineer. “More parts of the highway could be washed away if the Lake’s banks burst”.
Around 1,700 people have been forced to leave their homes in the last few days after floods swept through Ayeenabad and Shishkat villages in Hunza district, about 750-km north of Islamabad. So far, more than 3,000 people have been displaced by the rising water levels upstream of Attabad. Another 1,500 locals are expected to leave their homes in a week or so when water will submerge the low-lying areas of the Gulmeet town, located on the northernmost limits of the scenic Hunza valley. (Source)
Fear of breach in artificial Hunza Lake
People start fleeing villages near River Indus
BISHAM/MANSEHRA: On the directives of authorities in the downstream Shangla, Kohistan and Battagram districts, people residing on the banks of River Indus Friday started moving to safer places due to an imminent breach in the lake formed by a landslide in Attaabad area in Hunza valley.
Also, the district administrations have started registration of the affected families being displaced due to the fear of flood.Official sources said they were anticipating bursting of the lake during the period May 20 to June 4. They said the government would be assisting the displaced families.
Thousands of people were residing on the banks of Indus in the densely populated Bisham town and its surrounding areas, the residents said.They added that people living in Sindh Colony, Bisham Bazaar, Shang, Mera, Dandai, and Thakot, besides those in Pattan, Dubair and Jemal areas in Kohistan district were migrating to safer places.
Sources said that because of rise in temperature, the flow of water in Indus had increased manifold.Due to a heavy landslide in the mountainous village of Attaabad in Hunza Valley, the course of the river was blocked during winter and a large lake was formed.
The authorities were working to make spillways for the passage of water to avoid floods that could submerge the low-lying areas not only in Shangla and Kohistan districts but also in areas located on the banks of Indus in the down country. (Source)
Villagers shifting to safe places
HUNZA, May 14: Inmates of about 38 houses of lower Gulmit have started shifting to upper parts of the village to avoid hardships by the flood advancing from Hunza lake.
Hundreds of volunteers from far-flung areas of the tehsil are helping the people in shifting in the absence of any government support.
Meanwhile, the lake’s water has also submerged the Karakoram Highway at three points in lower Ghulkin and Hussain and three small bridges.
After Ayeenabad, Shishkat and Gulmit villages, Ghulkin village has also been submerged. About five houses in Shishkat also came under water increasing the number to 90.
The water inflow in the lake on Friday remained at 70.75 cubic meters per second, while seepage was recorded at 2.53 cubic meters per second.
Meanwhile, the authorities concerned failed to open the Karakoram Highway near Murtazabad Hunza for traffic even after 48 hours of the blockade of the road. Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles are stuck on both sides of the road.
Local people have blamed the authorities for inaction at time when the whole Hunza-Nagar district is facing threat of flood from the lake’s water. (Source)
Too little too late
THE situation in Hunza is dire to say the least. Indeed, the lake, which has already taken a heavy toll on life and infrastructure of the region, even inundating a large chunk of the Karakorum Highway, now threatens to devour thousands of lives and hundreds of villages down the valley. But we are being told by Army engineers and the National Disaster Management Authority that the rock debris that is acting as a natural embankment would not break and water would just overflow it and go down through the spillway that is currently under construction. Only a breach may occur, they have warned nonetheless, which is a tacit acceptance of the possibility of the barrier’s breakdown.
Their claim that the dam would not break is absurd because the debris that now constitutes this barrier largely consists of shale rocks and pebbles. Shale rocks are weak rocks and a water flow easily carries them away. The sheer pressure of water gushing from the glaciers in a downhill direction is like that of a bulldozer and it is only nonsensical to assume that this embankment would be strong enough to bear that.
The engineers are also saying that the only option available is to rely on the spillway, which would slowly transport the water downstream without causing a major catastrophe. Unfortunately, this is too little too late. Given the huge size of the reservoir, which continues to rise about 2 feet per day owing to melting glaciers and rainwater, the water would be a little too much for the spillway to take. Experts have warned that the wave resulting from breakdown of the bank could be as high as 200 feet. If life and property is to be saved, human settlements and areas coming in the way of the stream should be evacuated. Secondly, in order to limit the damage, it should be ensured that Tarbela Dam is able to absorb the floodwater.
Again this Hunza lake fiasco shows the laidback attitude of our rulers. Much before January, when the landslide occurred, Geographical Survey of Pakistan had warned the government to blow up the rocks through dynamite so as to prevent the formation of the lake. But nobody paid heed because no one seems to care. (Source)