People in Gilgit-Baltistan Fear Flooding-Last Year 350 Villages Affected

Gilgit (ET): Residents say flood waters might sweep their villages again. Locals are apprehensive about the reconstruction work in the area and complain that nothing has been done to prevent a disaster like last year, when around 350 villages were devastated in Gilgit-Baltistan. Around 950 kilometer (KM) of road network, livestock, standing crops, hundreds of irrigation channels, 180 bridges and nearly 14,000 houses were destroyed in what is said to be the worst flood in the living history of the region. Around 200 people died in the disaster.

The Gilgit-Baltistan government had estimated that they had suffered losses worth around Rs12 billion.

“It has been one year since the floods wrecked havoc in Gilgit-Baltistan, but the government is indifferent to people’s woes. Nothing has been done to restore the infrastructure or compensate for other losses,” said Ahmed Khan, an opposition leader of the Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly.

Khan said the government has no plan on how to protect people if the floods hit again. He said the bridges, water channels and roads are yet to be rehabilitated as people are living in temporary houses constructed by non-governmental organisations. “Look at the Gaise valley where people are still living in tents,” he said.

More than 50 people had died in Gaise valley of district Diamer after lightening struck the valley in August 2010. “The lone bridge of the valley was swept away by the floods, but, as of today, it has not been restored,” said Jamil Ahmed, a resident of Gaise.

Similarly the bridge of Bunji has not been replaced and people face immense difficulties in crossing the river.

Although non-governmental and other charity organisations extended their support, most of the rehabilitation work in G-B suffered due to lack of government funding.

“I think the biggest handicap was the lack of funds with the government throughout this period,” said a government official requesting anonymity.

The floods had washed away several water channels in Gilgit, disrupting power supply units at Jaglote Goro, Naltar and Kargah. The units have not been repaired due to facing a shortage of funds the department.

Although embankments have been reconstructed along the Gilgit River, residents say that they are too small to resist floods similar to that of last year.

“I am not sure if these protective walls will be able to prevent the water from entering our village,” said Naseeb Khan, a resident of Basin where dozens of houses had submerged in floods, forcing people to take shelter in makeshift houses constructed by NGOs like the Red Crescent society, Focus and World Food Organisation.

On the contingency plan for the year, a senior government official Mohammad Usman said people from more than 100 vulnerable areas will be moved to safer places in case a flood-like situation occurs once again this year / 2011. He said that police will be deployed in 106 places so that people can be evacuated on time. “The relevant people have also been provided training for relief and rescue,” he said.

Another official in the Gilgit-Baltistan disaster management authority said: “We have given Rs9 million to the heirs as death compensation in Gilgit-Baltistan,” he said, adding that at least 15,000 families affected by the floods have been supported through Watan Cards so far.

Chief Minister Mehdi Shah has said that $110 million were allocated for flood-related construction.

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