Month: June 2010

Rs12.98 billion Budget for Gilgit-Baltistan

Posted on

GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan government presented on Wednesday its first budget with an outlay of Rs12.984 billion and Rs6.404 billion non-development expenses.

Finance Minister Mohammad Ali Akhtar told the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly that Rs1.227 billion would be required to increase the salary of government employees by 50 per cent and medical allowance of employees up to BPS 15 by 100 per cent and higher pay scales by 15 per cent.

He also announced a 50 per cent raise for police personnel and revision of their pay scales to bring them at par with other provinces.

Mr Akhtar said 1,500 new jobs would be created during the 2010-11 fiscal year.

He said that Rs1.878 billion would be spent on subsidising wheat in Gilgit-Baltistan, although this subsidy had been stopped in other parts of the country.

He said 25.16 per cent of the budget would be spent on education and the number of scholarship for students from the region enrolled in educational institutions across the country would be doubled to 600.

The minister said the government’s operating expenses had been reduced by 26.5 per cent and the amount saved would be used to create new posts, adding that 250 new posts would be created in police to improve law and order.

He said expenses on entertainment, gifts and purchase of physical assets had been frozen.

The non-development budget has been increased by Rs638.486 million and Rs700 million has been released for implementing the Empowerment Order of 2009. He said six new departments, headed by secretaries, had been set up.

He said that in view of the increasing population, new divisions, districts, sub divisions and tehsils had to be created. A department will be set up to improve the prisons system and another to deal with disasters.

The finance minister said the services department had been asked to ensure 10 per cent jobs for women.

The budget sets a revenue target of Rs355.124 million and earmarks Rs3.127 billion for one new and nine ongoing projects under the Public Sector Development Programme and Rs1.234 billion for a Special Development Package.

The finance minister said 80 per cent of the allocation would be spent on ongoing projects and 20 per cent on new plans. He said work on 258 of 611 ongoing projects would be completed during the year.

He said Rs1.14 billion had been allocated for completing 14 projects in the power sector and Rs952.2 million for the transport and communications sector.

He said Rs387.7 million had been allocated for improving infrastructure for education, health, tourism, fisheries, agriculture and forests.

The minister said Rs698.35 million would be spent on new projects to be launched in consultation with members of the assembly.

Courtesy: The Daily Dawn

District Disaster Management critical for effective Disaster Mitigation

Posted on Updated on

LAHORE, (SANA): District Disaster Management Authorities are the linchpin of the new disaster management system in the country as demonstrated by the effective measures taken in districts affected by the recent Cyclone Phet.

According to a press release received here on Tuesday, this was highlighted at a two-day workshop organized by the United Nations in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority of Punjab.

Under the “ONE UN” joint programme on Disaster Risk Management, the emphasis is placed on building institutional capacities of districts and communities in 12 hazard prone districts throughout Pakistan.

These districts will serve as model to more effectively manage hazards which would be replicated in other 50 disaster prone districts in the country.

The workshop reviewed experiences of 12 model districts prone to natural disasters including the response to Cyclone Phet and Attabad landslide disaster.

The participants discussed thematic issues such as: Institutional Mechanisms; Capacity Building; Disaster Risk Management Planning; Community Based Disaster Risk Management; and Financial Mechanisms. The workshop concluded with 12 model districts developing Disaster Risk Management Action Plans.

Mr. Ikhlaq Ahmed Tarar, Senior Member Board of Revenue, Government of the Punjab was the chief guest on the occasion. Mr. Wolfgang Herbinger, Country Representative of World Food Programme (WFP) in Pakistan and Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka, Country Director of United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), Mr. Amir Mohiudin, Director Planning and Development, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Mr. Shaukat N. Tahir, Former Senior Member NDMA, District Coordination Officers from 12 model districts, representatives from United Nations agencies, NGOs and government officials from Punjab participated in the workshop.

Wolfgang Herbinger, WFP Representative while welcoming the participants said, “Natural as well as man-made disasters are growing all over the world including Pakistan. Timely preparedness, mitigation and response could effectively help in reducing the impacts both on humans as well as physical and economic losses.”

“I am sure the deliberations in these two days will reflect the needs of districts and we assure UN commitment to support priority joint interventions in the disaster prone districts during 2010-11,” he added.

Amir Mohi-ud-Din, Director Mitigation and Preparedness, NDMA deliberated upon the pre-2005 earthquake scenario.

//

He brought attention of the participants to the disaster management arrangements before the creation of NDMA.

He said that all Ordinances and Acts were post disaster response, however, the 2005 earthquake was a trigger where Government of Pakistan adopted a comprehensive approach of managing all phases of disasters including prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response/relief and reconstruction and rehabilitation.

He said that the National Disaster Management Framework is an overarching document which is based upon not only domestic requirements, but also international commitments.

He said the framework identifies nine priority areas, such as establishment of institutions and legal arrangements, conduct national hazard and vulnerability assessment, promote training, education and awareness, promote disaster risk reduction, establish multi-hazard early warning system, mainstream DRR into development process, role of media, private sector, etc.

In his key note address, the Senior Member Board of Revenue, Government of Punjab, Mr. Ikhlaq Ahmad Tarar said that “we need to have professional arrangements at the federal and at the provincial level which should ensure that the risk assessments are carried out, we prepare our plans according to risk assessments, the 2005 earthquake was an eye opener for everyone. We had been dealing with floods, disasters in Cholistan and lately we had been managing disaster like virus that infested cotton crops in Punjab. We did not have a professional institutional mechanism in place, which NDMA has taken up the responsibility. On behalf of the Punjab government, we are appreciative of these efforts, assistance and guidance in the provinces and districts. This is the best way to do things.”

District Coordination Officers from the 12 Model districts were invited to share their successful experience through the planned interventions, lessons learned and exchange information on best practices that the districts adopted during any recent disaster.

The model districts include Badin, Thatta, Dadu and Tharparkar in Sindh, Quetta and Gawadar in Balochistan, Haripur and Nowshera in KP, Sialkot, Jhang, Bhakkar, and Rajanpur in Punjab and Gilgit in Gilgit-Baltistan province.

During the presentations, it was encouraging that more DDMAs are now functional and started work on strengthening of DRM activities at District and community levels.

The Country Director, UNDP, Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka said “recent Cyclone Phet experiences demonstrated the invaluable evidences of importance of disaster preparedness and mitigation measures implemented by DDMAs and partners. The people of Gwadar were well organized when they were asked to evacuate. All families had essential documents and identity cards with them. The loss of human lives and assets were minimized as compared to earlier disasters. We were able to make a difference in the lives of people because of effective disaster risk management.”

He said that as the co-chairs of UN DRM programme, Wolfgang and Toshihiro concluded that the DDMAs workshop was very successful and productive, and the UN will continue to support communities, District Governments and build national capacity in the upcoming years adding eventually the national stakeholders both governmental and non governmental including the private sector need to build locally tailored mechanisms for enhanced resilience of the communities.

He stressed to have a hope that through a unified approach by combining the strengths of United Nations, Government departments and communities “we will continue to save precious lives and protect livelihood by building capacities for disaster response, recovery, mitigation and preparedness.”

Courtesy: SANA News

Gilgit-Baltistan Maiden Budget

Posted on

GILGIT: The maiden budget of Gilgit-Baltistan will likely be presented today after the formation of new government there, Geo news reported. The provincial Finance Minister, Mohammed Ali Akhter, will be presenting budget in Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. Budget session is due to begin at 10am in Legislative Assembly. Provincial Law minister said the budget will be public-friendly which is nearly 2 billion less than previous budget. He vowed concrete actions for uplift of poor people and quick completion of development projects after passage of budget and its proposals.

Courtesy: The News

University of Health Sciences (UHS) Lahore, announces entrance test-2010 for admission in Public and Private Medical/Dental Universities in Punjab

Posted on Updated on

The University of Health Sciences (UHS) Lahore, will conduct Entrance Test for admission into Public and Private Medical and Dental Institutions of the Punjab on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 at 09:00 A.M. Passing Entrance Test of UHS, with a minimum score of 60% marks, is mandatory for admission into all public or private sector medical or dental institution of the province. It is also a mandatory requirement for University Registration of MBBS and BDS students admitted in all affiliated institutions.

  1. Eligibility Criteria for Entrance Test
    1. A candidate who has appeared in F.Sc. (Pre-Medical) Part-II or Equivalent Examination, provided that
      a) He / she presents F.Sc. (Pre-Medical) Part-I Marks Certificate attested by the Head of his / her Institution.
      b) He / she provides a Certificate issued by the Head of the Institute where he / she is admitted stating that he / she has appeared in F.Sc. (Part-II) or Equivalent.
    2. A candidate who has passed F.Sc. (Pre-Medical) or Equivalent Examination with a minimum of 65% Marks (excluding the marks of Hifz-e-Quran).
  2. Format of Entrance Test
    1. Entrance Test shall consist of 220 multiple choice questions (MCQs) which will be divided in four sections, namely:
      Physics – 60 MCQs
      Chemistry – 60 MCQs
      English – 30 MCQs
      Biology – 70 MCQs
    2. Time allowed for the Entrance Test shall be 150 minutes.
    3. Entrance Test pass percentage is 60%.
  3. Syllabus of Entrance Test
    1. There shall be separate tests for F.Sc. and Non-F.Sc. candidates at the same time from their respective syllabi and books.
    2. Non-F.Sc. candidates taking the test of F.Sc. students shall be disqualified from the test and vice versa.
    3. Syllabi for both F.Sc. and Non-F.Sc. Groups are available at UHS website.
  4. Centres for Entrance Test
    1. Entrance Test 2010 will be held simultaneously in following cities:
      Southern Punjab:Bahawalpur , Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, and D.G. Khan.
      Central Punjab:Lahore, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Gujrat, Gujranwala, and Sargodha.
      Northern Punjab:Rawalpindi and Hasan Abdal
    2. Candidates can mention on their application form the centre city from which they wish to appear in the test. Centres will be allotted by UHS subject to administrative / logistic arrangements which shall not be changed subsequently.
  5. How to Apply for Entrance Test
    1. Entrance Test Application Form, Information Bulletin and Model Papers will be available at UHS and all public sector medical and dental colleges of the province from June 20th to 26th, 2010 (including Sunday) from 08:30 A.M. to 01:30 P.M.
    2. The Entrance Test Application Form, Information Bulletin and Model Papers can also be downloaded from the UHS website
    3. Candidates will submit the duly filled application form along with three passport size photographs attested at the back and copies of F.Sc. (Pre-Medical) Part-I (Part II where available) or Equivalent Examination Certificate and Matric or Equivalent Examination Certificate attested by the Principal of his/her college along with two self addressed and stamped envelopes.
    4. The candidate will submit his/her application from 27th June to 4th July, 2010 in the same city from where he/she wishes to appear in the Entrance Test between 08:30 A.M. to 01:30 P.M.
  6. Orientation Seminars
    1. Orientation seminars for candidates who are appearing in Entrance Test 2010 will be conducted in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sargodha and Rawalpindi between 5th July to 15th July, 2010. The exact dates and venues will be notified in the newspapers later.
  7. Admission Process
    1. Admission process for public sector medical / dental institutions for the Punjab is separate from that of the Entrance Test.
    2. Admission shall be made strictly according to the rules and regulation and Merit contained in the Prospectus for Session 2010-11, which will be available in August, 2010.
    3. Admission process shall be duly advertised in the national press in the month of August, 2010.
    4. It should be noted that last year the last merit for admission in Public Medical / Dental Colleges in Punjab was 82.6% (aggregate).
  8. IMPORTANT
    1. Candidates must reach their respective centres one hour before the commencement of Entrance Test.
    2. Complaint, if any, against the result may be lodged within 15 days of the declaration of result of Entrance Test. No complaint will be entertained thereafter.

The Government of Punjab has decided to conduct Entrance Test free of charge. No costs will be paid by the Candidate at any level.

Source: http://www.uhs.edu.pk/mcat/et2010.html#two

Locals start widening Hunza lake spillway

Posted on Updated on

HUNZA, June 17: Hundreds of local people have taken upon themselves a much-awaited task of widening the spillway of the Hunza lake amid protests in Aliabad town against police torture of volunteers leaving for the site.
The volunteers broke police barriers and reached the spillway, where they were joined by about 200 people from Gojal, who had arrived by boats.
The protesters condemned the police action against volunteers and blocked the Karakoram Highway for two hours.
They raised slogans against the Gilgit-Baltistan government, former chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, Gen (retd) Farooq Ahmed Khan and former governor Qamar Zaman Kaira and accused them of destroying four settlements in Gojal. They called for a judicial inquiry against the authorities for lack of timely action.
They urged the government to facilitate volunteers in widening the spillway.
“We don’t have any political agenda and we are here to save our villages from further submersion, as the government is following a policy of wait and see, which is detrimental for Gojal tehsil,” a volunteer said.
They warned the government to stop international trade through the lake formed after submersion of their houses and belongings.
They alleged that the government had refused to run ferries for stranded people but was allowing it to Chinese smugglers.
They said the affected families were facing an uncertain future and the authorities had not yet taken any concrete step to help them.
The volunteers said hey would continue the work on a regular basis, using safe mechanical methods.
The helicopter service from Aliabad and Gojal remained suspended despite clear weather, increasing the problems of the stranded people.
The water level in the lake increased by two inches over the past 24 hours, while erosion around the spillway remained slow. The inflow on Thursday was 6,400 cusecs and outflow 6,350 cusecs.

Courtesy : Daily Dawn

Introduction of Credit Guarantee Scheme for Small and Rural Enterprises of GB

Posted on Updated on

With a view to motivate the banks to lend to borrowers, which would not have access to credit under normal circumstances, State Bank has launched the Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) for Small and Rural Enterprises with the assistance of Government of Pakistan and donor agencies, says the circular of SBP issued on March 19, 2010.

As per the circular, the Scheme would allow the banks to develop a portfolio of fresh borrowers who are creditworthy, but cannot fit into their usual credit parameters, especially when collaterals are required. It will allow banks to assess Small and Rural Enterprises on the basis of Cash Flows.

Further, the Scheme should not be construed as a permanent source of support; rather an opportunity for the banks to make necessary alignments in strategic direction and meet SME financing needs on a sustainable basis.

The Scheme has been bifurcated into two segments-One for NWFP, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan; whereas the other is reserved for priority clusters/areas of other parts of the country. The eligible Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) will be allocated limits, wherein SBP will share bonafide losses on the loans to the extent of 60% of PFI’s fresh portfolio of financing to Small & Rural Enterprises. In NWFP, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan, all banks would be eligible to apply for limits, while for other areas; few banks will be selected as PFIs. The banks are, therefore, advised to apply for status of PFIs after which limits will be allocated to selected PFIs as per criteria outlined in the scheme.

The Credit Guarantee Scheme is attached as Annexure-I while the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the Scheme are placed at SBP Website

Details can be seen at: http://www.sbp.org.pk/smefd/circulars/2010/C1.htm

Refinance Scheme for Revitalization of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)

Posted on Updated on

State Bank of Pakistan has started providing Refinancing facilities (Subsidized Financing) to Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) of Gilgit-Baltistan as a measure to generate economic activity in the region, says the circular of SBP issued on March 19, 2010.

Short Term / Working Capital Facility

Under the Scheme banks may provide short term facilities up-to a maximum period of one year to SME units of all categories, of GB to meet working capital requirements.

Medium & Long Term Facility

Under the Scheme banks may also provide Medium & Long Term Facilities for Balancing Modernization and Replacement (BMR)/Up-gradation of existing SME units or installation / setting-up of new SME units in NWFP, GB and FATA. Medium & long term facilities under the Scheme shall be available for purchase / import of plant, machinery and equipments and investment in construction of factory / office / warehouse; and allied infrastructure. Financing facilities shall be provided for a maximum period of 7 years including a grace period of six months.

Financing availed under the Scheme shall have to be utilized for investment in SME units located in NWFP, GB and FATA only. The details of the Scheme are given in attached Annexures.

Note: For details visit SBP at:

http://www.sbp.org.pk/smefd/circulars/2010/C2.htm

Passport office starts functioning in Skardu

Posted on Updated on

SKARDU – New machine-readable passport office started functioning in Skardu, Baltistan region of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Senior Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Muhammad Jafar inaugurated passport office in a simple function attended by large number of people including Commissioner Baltistan Division Dr Sajid Muhammad Chuhan, Deputy Commissioner Skardu Muhammad Ali Yougooni, President PPP Skardu district Muhammad Yousaf Numberdar and General Secretary Abdullah Hadari.
Now the people of Skardu and Ghangche would benefit by this passport office because passport issuing authorities of the deputy commissioner were withdrawn in December 2008 and people were facing great problems because they had to go to Gilgit, some 250 kilometres from Skardu for the purpose. People have thanked the Interior Minister and government of Gilgit-Baltistan for this facility.

Courtesy: The Nation

Districts of Gilgit-Baltistan

Posted on Updated on

Gilgit-Baltistan is the region under Pakistani control and was formerly known as the Northern Areas. It is the northernmost political entity within the Pakistani-controlled part. It borders Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province to the west, Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor to the north, China to the northeast, the Pakistani-administered state of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) to the south, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast.

The territory became a single administrative unit in 1970 under the name “Northern Areas” and was formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar.

With its administrative center at the town of Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan covers an area of 72,971 square kilometers and has an estimated population approaching 3,000,000. Pakistan considers the territory separate from Kashmir, whereas India and the European Union consider the territory as a part of the larger disputed territory of Kashmir that has been in dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947.

Administratively the region comprises of seven districts namely Gilgit, Skardu, Diamer, Ghanchay, Ghazar, Hunza-Nagar, and Astor.

Reference: Wikipedia

Pakistan’s Hunza Valley: Another Paradise Lost?

Posted on Updated on

On January 4, a landslide knocked down houses, blocked the river and threatened the entire Hunza valley. The new year in the Hunza valley began with a catastrophe. On January 4, a crack in the sloped terrain of Attaabad in the Upper Hunza valley widened and gravity took its toll: houses in the village collapsed. A major landslide caused a wave of dust and gravel; subsequently, material from the moraine blocked and dammed the Hunza valley. Four months later, the villagers in the northwest of Karakoram still live in a state of uncertainty.

Attaabad is one of the younger villages in Hunza, inhabited by people from the central oasis five generations ago. The exposed location made irrigated agriculture difficult, favoured orchards and allowed easy access to the high pastures.

The crack in the slope had been discovered some time ago in the aftermath of the Astor earthquake. Humanitarian organisations such as Focus Humanitarian Assistance had assessed the likely danger and advised the villagers to leave their unstable abodes high above the Hunza river. Despite the timely warning, around 20 people lost their lives, 50 houses were destroyed and 1,500 people were displaced and forced to live in camps or with relatives and friends in neighbouring villages. The Karakoram Highway – while undergoing repairs by Chinese engineers – was damaged along a 1.5-km stretch. A lake formed upstream into Gojal where it submerged roads and bridges, lands and residences of Ainabad and Shishket. Recently it reached Gulmit, the largest village and tehsil headquarter of Gojal, however, the upper lake level has not been affected yet.

When the landslide occurred, the Hunza river released only 2% of its summer melt waters; day after day the run-off rate increases. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was assigned the task of mitigating the disaster by constructing a spill-over channel that stops the water level from rising and perhaps could support a controlled drainage. Time slipped away while politicians of Gilgit-Baltistan, development activists from NGOs, village representatives and council members, self-proclaimed experts and army engineers from the Frontier Works Organisation debated the future of the dam and lake. Some suggested utilising the lake water for power generation and/or tourism purposes; others discussed the stability of the dam without sound geological and geo-morphological evidence. There was also a call to bomb the dam.

Meanwhile, culprits were sought and demonstrations were staged against bureaucrats and politicians accused of inaction. The supply of basic foodstuffs and the transportation of ailing residents was initially enabled by army helicopters. As the crisis grew, a ferry service consisting of small boats was introduced that allowed some commuting and transportation of goods. On both sides of the lake, trucks meant to transport goods to and from Sost Dry Port, the hub of China-Pakistan trade across the Khunjerab Pass, became stuck. International trade along this one and only regularly functioning trade corridor between Central and South Asia has stopped for the time being.

Elders of Hunza society say the January landslide is the biggest natural disaster they have ever experienced. Hunza is a highly vulnerable environment and its extreme mountain valley system is characterised by the most extensive glaciation outside the polar regions as well as some of the steepest slopes on earth. Natural and man-made disasters are not unknown in the Karakoram; survival under these harsh environmental conditions has brought fame to the Hunzukuts for being capable and enduring mountain folk. To put the January disaster into perspective, its only necessary, to look back at history.

From 1830 to the 1990s, the details of 124 damaging events from the Hunza valley were preserved via archival sources, oral traditions, travelogues, reports, interviews and observations. The single most important destructive force has been the movement of glaciers. Glaciers have a role in nearly half of all recorded events. Glacial movements cause direct destruction when glacier advances cover cultivated lands, irrigation systems and roads. Glacier surges might be triggered by a variety of events, including landslides and rockfalls in the ablation zone, resulting in a significant deviation in glacier-surface velocities. In fact glacier advances and natural dams that cause lake formations can cause other disastrous effects.

Glacier dams can break, releasing the water stored in the temporary reservoirs and causing huge floods. The next biggest threat comes from snow and ice avalanches, which are as consequential as the combined phenomena of mud flows and rockslides. And while weather-related action from wind and thunderstorms has been of minor importance here, the heavy rains of September 1992 and 2001 caused substantial destruction to local infrastructure and agricultural resources. All these events have affected habitats, farmland, roads and bridges to varying degrees.

The present cultural landscape of the Hunza valley is the result of coping with these disasters. Direct earthquake-triggered mass movements have not been registered although 42 earthquakes occurred in the Hindukush-Karakoram region between 1876 and 1911. This run of seismic activity damaged roads and buildings, mainly in Chitral and the Gilgit valley. Out of 102 earthquake events with epicentres in Northern Pakistan between 1912 and 1971, no direct destruction to habitations could be established for the Hunza valley. The Attaabad disaster falls into this category: an earthquake contributed to the destabilisation of the slope, the slope collapsed years later causing the blockage of the Hunza valley and the formation of the Gojal lake.

Within the period of recorded observation there have been only four events that led to the complete abandonment of settlement sites in the Hunza valley. The 1830 mudflow and glacier advances in the Chupursan valley were the most dramatic events as a whole tributary valley of the Hunza river had to be sacrificed; all villages were destroyed and covered under a thick layer of fluvial deposits. Only within the last century has systematic resettlement resumed and continued until today – more than 330 households have built hamlets there.

Less than three decades later, in 1858, the severe rockfall at Sarat and the damming of the Hunza river caused flooding of all villages from Sarat to Pasu. In addition to the loss of village lands due to the undercutting of terraces, the juvenile village of Sarat was abandoned and resettlement took place after 1931. Both areas had been newly developed filial settlements of settlers from Central Hunza and of migrants and refugees from Wakhan who had superseded Kirghiz nomads and converted seasonally utilised pasture areas into permanent habitations with mixed mountain agriculture.

The case of Sarat holds an important lesson for the present Attaabad crisis. Sarat’s ground zero is within two kilometres from Attaabad’s danger zone and acts as a historical reminder of the scope of a disaster to be expected. In 1858 a lake was formed in a similar manner as now. When the lake had reached a length of more than 20 kilometres the dam collapsed and the lake released a flood wave that followed the course of the Hunza river into Gilgit and the Indus. The contribution from the Hunza river to the Indus was of such force that close to Attock, where the Indus leaves the mountainous terrain into its floodplain, the water level rose in virtually no time.

To quote a contemporary report: “At 5 a.m. on August 10, 1858, the Indus at Atak (Attock) was very low; at 7 a.m. it had risen 10 feet; by half an hour after noon it had risen 50 feet, and it continued to rise until it stood 90 feet higher than in the morning.” The speed of the rising flood waters drowned a colonial army that was camping on the bank of the Indus. The event took place when British dominance in South Asia was at stake and their supremacy was challenged. Because of the political significance the records of the 1858 Indus flood are well known.

What is likely to happen one and a half centuries later? If the Attaabad dam collapses and the Gojal lake empties at a high speed, the effects will be significantly more dramatic. During the 20th century the Karakoram Highway changed the infrastructure and livelihoods of people on the Indus and Hunza valleys in a manner that caused the expansion of follow-up construction of link roads, extension of village lands and settlements closer to the river banks. Nowadays every tributary river to the big rivers is connected by a jeep or truck friendly suspension bridge or concrete viaduct.

Development agencies, the Public Works Department – sometimes labelled the public’s worst department – and international donors have contributed to bridge construction and road building. The Tarbela Dam on the Indus claims to be the world’s largest earth-filled dam and is both the major regulator for Punjab’s irrigation and Pakistan’s prime hydro-electric power generation station. Above Tarbela, Basha Dam is under construction. Feasibility was attested despite high probabilities of earthquakes and flood releases. Damage caused by the Attaabad flood wave would be a mega disaster in every sense of the term.

While the NDMA predicted the lake to overflow by May 29, no significant damage was reported when Newsline went into print on June 2. Although the lake’s water levels are steadily on the rise, Assistant Commissioner Hunza Nagar Zameer Abbas commented that the breach was unlikely for another three days. The NDMA has worked hard to enable a controlled overflow: they completed the planned spillway within the soft top layer of the dam. The spillway seems to be working as it is discharging the water building up in the lake, but the outflow to inflow ratio of 1000:3000 cusecs paints an unpromising picture. In addition, one news report suggested that the water leakage level had reached 350 cusecs on June 1. Other emergency measures have also been taken in the form of standby helicopters and early warning sirens placed at vulnerable locations to facilitate evacuation. But the glacier melt is increasing day by day, and as the lake exceeds a length of 14 kms, more terraced fields and orchards are inundated along with surrounding villages. No potato crop will be harvested this year; thus the only cash crop of the valley fades. The scope of the upcoming disaster seems to be grossly underestimated and in the meantime, residents wait with bated breath for the looming catastrophe and what could be Hunza’s worst natural disaster to date.

Source: This article appeared in the print version of Newsline under the title “Another Paradise Lost?”. The writer (Hermann Kreutzmann) currently holds the Chair of Human Geography at the Center for  Development Studies in the Institute of Geography, Freie Universitat Berlin.