[News] Over 30 villages may be affected by lake breach By Iftikhar A. Khan

Workers use machines to dig a spillway to release water pressure built up by the natural dam caused by a landslide in Attaabad village in Hunza. Fears are growing a lake created by a landslide will burst and cause a massive flood that could affect more than 50,000 people in northern Pakistan and disrupt a key trade link with China, residents said. –Reuters Photo

                                               DISASTER LOOMS

Flooding fears as Pakistan tries to ease dam pressure
Flooding fears as Pakistan tries to ease dam pressure
By Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: Army engineers have ruled out any possibility of a natural lake in Hunza suddenly bursting its banks, but conceded that a ‘breach’ is likely to occur.

According to them, there are varying estimates about the level of damage it may cause.

“In the worst case scenario, 30 to 36 villages may be affected while there is also a threat to infrastructure, including two bridges on the Karakoram Highway,” Engineer-in-Chief Lt-Gen Shahid Niaz and FWO Director-General Maj-Gen Najibullah Khan said at a press conference here on Thursday.

ISPR Director-General Maj-Gen Athar Abbas was present on the occasion.

They said the flow of water from a spillway cut along a side of the lake was expected between May 20 and 30, a process that would take four to six hours. They said the breach could take place any time after water started gushing out through the spillway.

They said vulnerable areas had been identified and arrangements were in place to timely relocate people from there to safe places.

They said the Tarbela reservoir faced no threat because it was far away and its capacity was much more than the maximum outflow.

Lt-Gen Niaz said after consultation with international experts there was a consensus that creating a spillway to discharge water was the only viable option.

He said the spillway had been completed by the FWO in the third week of March and it had been widened from 40 to 60 metres and deepened to 24 metres. The work was done despite heavy odds, this being an active slide.

Lt-Gen Niaz was of the opinion that the spillway had reduced the chances of a sudden breach.

He said that the lake would breach one day but chances of a flash flood causing damage to property had been lowered while there was no threat to human lives.

“Such lakes have to ultimately breach and there is no chance for its preservation as a dam or a permanent water reservoir,” he told a questioner.

He said a possible flood caused by a breakage would reach up to Raikot which was around 400km downstream and the bed of the river there was much wider than at the site of the lake.

A massive landslide from a huge mountain on the bank of Hunza River on Jan 4 blocked the passage of the river near Attabad and created the natural lake.

The inflow into the lake was initially meagre but with the passage of time and gradual increase in temperature it reached the present level of around 1,800 cusecs per day.

Citing historical data, he said that in June the flow of the river at the point of the lake remains around 5,000 cusecs and in July at 10,000, when chances of a breakage would increase.

He conceded that a 2.5-kilometre portion of Karakoram Highway affected the landslide was an issue.

He said that Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had asked the National Highway Authority to devise a plan to reopen the road.

He said that there was a plan for a raft service for heavy vehicles, including trucks, while the NHA had been asked to develop tracks for light traffic. source


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