[Editorial] Notification of Calamity Hit Area Again Fruitless Exercise

The announcement of calamity hit area for Gojal (Upper Hunza), Sarat and Attabad was welcomed overwhelmingly by the disaster affected people of Hunza.  However, it could not be understandable that why people were insisting so much on declaring the affected areas of Attabad Disaster as calamity hit area by the government of Pakistan? What are the benefits and how the status of calamity hit areas would reduce the suffering (economic, social and emotional) of people?

GB Times conducted a survey and the responses were as follow: Nooruudin, says “by declaring our area calamity hit I expect government would give us free food, education, health facilities, and all necessary items and our loans will be written off. It will also ask for international agencies and China for the passage of water as FWO failed to do so”

Haji Begum, states that “ I was worried about managing my household budget, like food, education of my children, my house has sank and now I am expecting that government will provide me all these facilities. We were managing household expenditures and education of our children from the income received by selling potatoes but now all our cultivable land has fallen into Hunza River so there is no other source of income. So now government will provide all these facilities”

Karim Shah, states that “ I heard all the loans of the banks would be written off after declaring the Gojal, Sarat and Attabad as calamity hit area. But I think it is useless for me because I have not taken any loan but all my land has submerged into lake water and now my home is very nearer to the lake, I fear and worried that it will sink.  Rich people (Amir Loog) have taken big loans who are doing business across China and people like me are just being exploited. I will be benefited only if the water from the lake will pass fast so I will get my land, I will be given a job or business for survival of my family and land for long term settlement”

Although more than a week has passed on but still there is no progress and nor any change in the status quo regarding the new arrangements for the passage of water from the lake.  The intensity of the problem has rather raised more because people who are living in the low lying areas of Hunza, Nagar, Gilgit till Terbella Dam along the Indus are now highly freighted and filling unsafe in front of the giant monstrous lake. This could be a separate issue to be discussed at length, but currently we are concern regarding futileness of the notification of calamity hit area as non of the expectations of the people as stated above fulfilled yet.

Babar Khan one of the highly immersed social worker and well versed regarding the socio-political landscape of Hunza states that ‘ The true benefits that could go to the people of Gojal, Attabad and Sarat through ‘calamity hit area status’ is only if people of these areas are being provided (1)free access (without custom duty) imports from China (2) A mechanism for the provision of royalty from all sought of income from the lake be ensured to reach to the people of disaster affected areas either it is from boating or fishing or any tourism related business.’ This suggestion seems to be making a lot of sense as one of the major problems of the people of these calamity hit areas are lose of their sources of income. Any sought of provision particularly that through custom free trade would be a major help for the people.

In the wake of existing threat of the Dam both backward and frontward people in Gilgit-Baltistan need to realize the gravity of the situation and should know that the power echelons in Islamabad do not hear decent voices. Here I would like to quote a saying from a prominent scholar and development activist Hamid Usman that “Our power vessels in Islamabad have become used to bomb blast so much so that none of the resident (from president to advisors) cannot sleep and wake up without hearing one so please bring one (bomb) if you want to have a breakfast with any of them”. The above statement seem to be true at least in wake of Attabad Disaster, where the government has been neglected the decent voices of the people of Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan and people of power are exploiting affected people with fake promises, announcements and notifications. The government would be doing a good job for herself if immediate actions being taken for the genuine relief of the people  of the disaster hit areas and prevent the foreseeable disaster in the wake of outburst of the lake.

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