ISLAMABAD: People in a far-flung valley of the western impoverished Ghizer District are living under constant fear of disaster as a mountain at a village has started slipping down, posing Attabad-like danger to the inhabitants.
According to reports, the mountain had developed cracks and started moving down posing danger to 7,000 people of the Thoi Valley in Yasin Tehsil. In case of major land erosion it can hit the village, block the river.
According to the local people slope failure and frequent landslides have already damaged 35 houses in the village. People have been evacuated due to potential risk, expert and local people told The Express Tribune. But the local administration seems to be oblivious of the danger.
Experts say that if the cracked parts of the mountain sheered off it may generate a massive landslide destroying the settlement and creating a lake in Thoi valley like Attabad in Hunza. However, a top official in the district administration dispelled the fear of the threat as “unreal”.
Locals said frequent landslides have been witnessed in the valley during the past three weeks that have destroyed many houses. In response, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, a non-governmental organisation working under the Aga Khan Development Network, has started shifting the residents of the valley to safer areas. The displaced people are living in temporary tents facing harsh weather due to lack of fuel.
“These are all lies! There is no threat of any disaster and the people have only created panic to get relief goods from the government,” said Ghizer District Deputy Commissioner Kamal Khan. He is still not ready to accept the Attabad disaster either. “They [Hunza people] created panic to get money from the government… it is my duty to protect the government.”
Aleem Sher, a local villager, said the situation is becoming serious but the media has not yet highlighted the issue. He said that due to lack of fuel, the displaced people living in temporary tents will face severe health problems, especially with the start of snowfall in the coming weeks. “The mountains have developed around four to five feet wide cracks, which are increasing,” member Gilgit-BaltistanLegislative Assembly Muhammad Ayub from the area said. He said that the local administration has asked the vulnerable families to vacate the area to avoid any disaster. He said that tents have been set up for 22 households but due to lack of fuel, people prefer living with their relative in the extreme cold weather.
Ayub said the administration is trying to bring coal from Hunza to the displaced people, which were sent by the Chinese government for the affected people of Attabad Lake. He added that the affected people have also been enlisted for Watan Cards.
A total of 20 people died when a massive landslide hit Attabad village in Hunza in January 4, creating a 23 kilometres lake by blocking the river’s course and submerging three villages upstream.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2010.