[News] We are being kept in the dark about the (Attabad Lake Spillway) situation
July 5, 2010 1 Comment
By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: Thousands of people displaced by the Attabad ‘landslide’ lake in Hunza, especially women, are developing psychological problems due to the unending crisis, says Wazir Baig, Speaker Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly.
The lake was formed in January when a massive landslide blocked the flow of the Hunza river, damaging the strategic Karakorum Highway, submerging four villages upstream and killing at least 20 people. According to an official tally, 25,000 people have been displaced by the ever-swelling lake. It’s not over yet as official efforts to drain out the lake have not succeeded and many more villages downstream are at risk, if the lake bursts its banks.
“I’ve met displaced people living in temporary camps. I’ve found that they, especially their women, are developing physiological problems because they have lost everything, even the hope of returning to their homes,” Baig told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview after visiting the disaster-hit areas.
“It’s not easy to spend such a long time in camps, especially for those women and children who are used to living in big houses,” said Baig, himself a resident of Hunza.
Last month, Pakistan Army engineers successfully created a spillway by breaking huge boulders to drain out the 23-kilometre-long lake. However, contrary to their expectations, it hasn’t drained out the lake and efforts to widen it have so far remained unsuccessful. Desperate to go back to their villages, displaced people have threatened to widen the spillway at the risk of their own lives, if officials remained “apathetic” to their plight.
Baig said the situation of the spillway was confusing as it hasn’t drained out the lake. “We are being kept in the dark about the situation,” he added.
He said people were evacuated from downstream villages on the advice of experts and now it was their responsibility to take a decision about their repatriation. “We have left it to experts to take a decision about the repatriation of the displaced people,” he added.
Baig plans to take up the issue with higher authorities because, according to him, the situation could fuel anti-government feelings among the displaced people.
Baig said he wasn’t satisfied with the compensation amount being offered to the lake affectees. “I was chairman of the committee constituted by the government to assess losses in Attabad. We had submitted a report to the home secretary, indicating estimated losses of Rs780 million. But the compensation package offered by the government is much below our expectations,” he said.
Baig said that the January 4 landslide had destroyed 141 houses in Attabad besides damaging standing crops and other valuables of local people. He called upon the government to take the issue seriously to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the region. Express Tribune