Gilgit-Baltistan: FWO to Brief GB’s Legislators and Affected People on Draining Lake

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Gilgit (ET):The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) will hold a briefing for Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) legislators and representatives of affected people to share the difficulties and future strategy for draining Attabad Lake, sources said on Saturday.

“The session is planned for February 14 when senior officials of FWO will share their experience with elected representatives including members of the legislative assembly and G-B Council,” said officials requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to interact with the media.

Responsible for executing the project to widen the lake’s spillway, the FWO has been severely criticised for the past one year for its failure to drain the lake that has submerged almost four villages upstream.

More than 25000 people in Gojal have been stranded after a massive landslide in January 2010 formed a natural dam in the Hunza River, creating a lake. The landslide also blocked the Karakoram Highway, a vital trade link to China, cutting off people in Gojal valley, also known as Upper Hunza, from the rest of the country.

Engineers had dug out a spillway to let the water gush out, but the lake did not drain out, sparking criticism.

According to experts, the spillway should have been at least 30 metres deep in order to allow the submerged villages and two RCC bridges and part of the Karakoram Highway to resurface. “The depth of the spillway is about 10 to 12 metres,” sources said.

FWO officials said huge boulders beneath the spillway were hindering progress and that they had tried to blast the rocks to widen the spillway. A colonel had drowned in the spillway in an attempt to rescue three persons stuck in a bulldozer.

Former home secretary G-B, Asif Bilal told reporters that Chinese engineers had expressed their inability to drain the Attabad Lake. Desperate to restore the only surface link to the rest of the country, youth from Attabad and Gojal attempted twice to drain the lake but the government barred them due to the risk involved.

In the absence of a land route, boats are the only means of transportation, but in winters when the surface of the 23-kilometre long Attabad Lake is frozen, the voyage is perilous and has been banned.

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