| disaster hunza landslide |
holding f i rm As of mid-October, the Attabad lake remains, and it looks as through it’s here to stay – or at least a large part of it is. The spillway has been letting lake water flow down into the valley, and the lake’s level is beginning to drop. Thankfully, even at a high rate of discharge down the spillway of more than 480 cubic metres per second, the dam has held, defying all early forecasts.
The level of the lake has also decreased somewhat due to the onset of colder weather and the consequent reduction in river-water inflow. Plans are now in place to drain the lake further during winter by deepening the spillway by another 30 metres. ‘The task will be completed before the melting process of glaciers restarts,’ provincial finance minister Mohammad Ali Akhtar told The Express Tribune.
Officials hope that this will enable the reopening of the all-important Karakoram Highway. The upstream communities, however, continue to suffer immensely, and need to be resettled as soon as possible in order for them to resume their working lives.
Pakistan’s federal government has announced a 100-million-rupee (£726,000) relief package, and displaced people have been offered compensation, but there is much local resentment about the pace and scale of the relief efforts.
In July, the Chinese government agreed to provide technical assistance, and large numbers of Chinese troops and contractors are now in the area, primarily to carry out work on the Karakoram Highway, but there has been little visible progress. Reports have emerged of disagreements between Pakistani officials and Chinese contractors over how to proceed.
Top: women cut barley in a field near the village of Shishkat in May. A few days after this photograph was taken, much of the village was submerged; Above: a satellite image showing the extent of the Attabad lake on 7 July. Water can be seen flowing out of the spillway at the lower end of the lake
G Disaster charity ShelterBox has been working to provide relief for those displaced by the landslide and lake in the Hunza Valley. Donations to support its work can be made at www.shelterbox.org
54 www.geographical.co.uk december 2010