First anniversary of Attabad landslide today (4 January)
Freeze doubles miseries of Attabad landslide affectees
By Ghulam Rehman
Recent cold wave and freeze in parts of Gilgit Baltistan doubled the miseries of the affectees of the Attabad landslide that divided people a part due to slippage of portion of mountain that created a lake which rendered thousands of people internally displaced.
January 04, 2010 will be known as the worst destructive day in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan as on this day a huge part of a mountain slipped off burring Attabad village with 20 of its inhabitants and their cattle, houses, orchards and agricultural lands. The massive landslide completely blocked the Hunza River at Attabad and damaged three kilometers of the Karakoram Highway, which had cut off the 25,000 population upper Hunza, Gojal valley from rest of the country.
Though the government had declared the area as calamity hit but still the affectees are awaiting the benefits under this decree. They are living in tents without proper shelters and are at risk of freeze and cold weather conditions.
Mr Naik Alam, president of the IDPs committee from Hunza told INFN that over 1200 internally displace people (IDPs) of Attabad are temporarily houses in three government and private school buildings in Altil in the Hunza valley without heating and sufficient living arrangements. “Some NGOs are providing them food and cloths whereas they do not see any tangible support from the government,” he added.
Mercury in Hunza valley is down to minus 15 degrees and it has added to the miseries of the IDPs who urgently need proper winterized shelters.
“The government should urgently intervene to save thousands of people from cold and freeze as they are at risk of cold related diseases while living in tents. Children and elderly people are at higher risk,” said Mr Alam.
The Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani in his visit to the affected area had promised to waive off fees of students from the Attabad area but this promise like others did not materialize yet and students are facing financial constraints and can not pay their education fees.
“Due to un-fulfillment of the promise of the Prime Minister, I have to borrow Rs 40,000 to pay my semester’s fee”, said Mr. Alamgir, a student from Attabad now studying at a private university in Islamabad. “My father is a potato grower and bears expenses of four of us including three of my siblings. Due to landslide and road closure, this year he could not grow and sell potato crop that increased our worries,” he added.
Lack of medical facilities is another problem for the affectees in the region, earlier the government and some of the NGOs sent their medical mobile teams to the valley, they gave some treatments to the sick inhabitants but soon they left the valley reasons best known to them. Lack of medical facilities, however, caused health problems for the people.
“Because of unavailability of medical treatment, at least four persons died of various diseases,” said Mr. Sher Ullah, another student of the university. Though there is a civil hospital with a capacity of ten beds in Gulmit tehsil headquarters, but there is no medical doctors permanently posted there.
The people trapped in the Valley have to come out for medical or other reasons to other parts of the country using boats that are hardly fit to travel in and take hours to cover distance from Attabad spillways to other side of the lake.
“My mother was scheduled to come to Rawalpindi for her medical checkup along with my elder brother, but they could not reach as they are still waiting to get seats on boat for the last two weeks,” said Mr. Muzamil Khan, a resident of Attabad, now in Rawalpindi. Mr Muzamil demanded that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) should restart helicopter service from Gojal to Aliabad to airlift the emergency patients.
“There is shortage of edible items in the camps at Altit and Karimabad,” complained a woman, saying, “we have nothing left, our fields, cattle, houses with all of our belongings, everything has gone, we cannot buy foods and cloths from the market, What will we do now?” she questioned emotionally.
The speaker and interim Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan, Mr Wazir Baig told INFN that the federal government has approved Rs.315 million for rehabilitation of about 500 families of Attabad, Ayieenabad, Shishkat and Gulmit villages. He farther said that the affectees should show patience as the government would facilitate every affected family.
When asked about fees of the students not being paid by the government, the governor said: “The total cost of the fees of the affected students for one year have crossed Rs. 70 million, therefore we have decided to pay fees for 6 months instead of one year,” said Mr Baig.