Home > Uncategorized > Drowning of promises in the Hunza River Lake

Drowning of promises in the Hunza River Lake


The voice of the people of Ataabd is muted by Pakistani noise and the promises of development and humanitarian relief remain drowned in the Hunza river lake.

Everyone knows few things about Pakistan, and it is easy to associate religious violence, nuclear weapons, and chronic political instability with that country. For all the wrong reasons Pakistan grabs global headlines. One always hears about al-Qaeda hideouts in the metropolitan cities like Karachi, the so called Quetta Shura who are giving ISAF forces in Afghanistan a hard time, and of course the most dangerous place on earth the bloody Af-Pak frontier in the Frontier province oF Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa. This variety of death and destruction in Pakistan drowns the voices of those who don’t suffer relatively too much, as BP CEO Tony Hayward would have said in relation to the vastness of ocean and the BP oil spill. Yet there comes the story of an ‘ironic’ natural disaster that killed 19 people on January 4th this year but create a beautiful lake in its wake. Attabad, a small hamlet of about one hundred households, in the Hunza valley located in the Northern Karakorum mountains, was struck by a massive landside whose debris was so huge that it blocked the roaring Hunza river and thus a natural lake began to form along the river

The landslide was predicted by experts and government geologists seven years ago as an earlier massive earth quake in the nearby Astore valley had created cracks in the fragile mountains of Attabad. However scientists with only super human capabilities could have foreseen the timing, and ferocity of this landslide. Ever since the prediction the inhabitants lived a life of fear, of an impending disaster. And on that day elders of the community had travelled to the nearby administrative town of Aliabad to remind the authorities that their lives were in danger. While they were negotiating with the officials the disaster had struck, little did they know that their homes were in ruins now?

The government was slow to respond so the local community form surrounding villages got together and rescued all the survivors and extracted the dead and buried them with proper Muslim rituals for the departed. Two days later the federal authorities came to know about the incident and high officials quickly reached the site in their helicopters. Governor QZ Karia, accompanied by the NDMA boss Gen Farooq reassured the community that they will ‘do everything they can’ to help them and actually promised to burst the debris and open the highway within three weeks. Little did they know that this will take more than thirty weeks without any chances of success in sight? While slow work to remove the debris began on January 12th the lake started to expand slowly yet steadily upstream engulfing low-lying valleys, thus the patches of arable land belonging to poor people started to disappear, houses now submerged in water many people became new refugees. People had to destroy their homes to save wood from damping in the water, and the savagely beautiful lake kept expanding claiming 150 houses.

While the slow pace of work was going on the leadership of NDMA kept the local community in dark by telling them that they will create a spillway ‘very soon’. After more than five months when the melting glaciers were pumping in more 10000 cusec water into the lake the work was stopped and everybody expected a massive outburst. Communities along the river banks downstream were removed in the expectation that there could be a sixty feet high tide flowing down the gorges.  Bemused children told stories to each other that the ‘flowing ocean’ bring mermaids in it. Eager as they are, children waited to catch a mermaid for them, so was the upbeat modern electronic media of Pakistan which converged on Attabad valley for three days in the hope of catching the glimpse of a massive water outburst. Among the curious guests to watch the spectacle were the Pakistani PM SYRG, leader of the opposition NS, and other political figures and members of bureaucracy. This didn’t happen. They went away. They left promises but alas those are now drowned in the 370 meter deep ironic Hunza river lake, and the voices of the poor are mute in the big Pakistani noise of violence, war on terror, and the ever elusive Presidency of Mr AAZ.

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