Flooding of Hunza lake an ecological disaster in the making!
18 May 2010
Fears of Hunza lake bursting abound as a result of fresh landslides in Ataabad, Northern Pakistan which have put 40,000 people at risk with residents from up to 34 villages evacuated to safety.
The artificial lake, formed last January by a massive landslide that obliterated the village of Ataabad and killed 20 people,leaving about 25,000 people stranded, faces the threat of imminent collapse. The lake contains an estimated 1.2 million cusecs of water – potentially enough to send a 30 to 50 metre high flash floods crashing down the valley if the lake were to suddenly burst its banks.
The depth of the 18km lake has reached 350 feet and the daily inflow in the lake surged to 3,100 cusecs, up from 2,300 cusecs, due to the glacier-lake burst last Monday. The level of water almost touched the spillway carved out by the Frontier Works Organisation.
Army personnel has been deployed in Hunza, Gilgit and Chillas and are assisting the civil administration. Seven helicopters are on the standby to cope with any emergency. An early warning system has been established in the area and people would also be warned via SMS if there were any danger, informed the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmed. He said the lake might overflow between May 20 and 30, depending on the inflow in the Hunza River.He said three villages- Ayeenabad, Shishkat and Gulmit – with a population of 924 had been inundated and people had moved to safe places.
The impending disaster has hugely distressed the villagers of the picturesque valley who were reluctant to evacuate because farming is their only means of living. The rise of the lake has coincided with the start of a May to November agricultural cycle, when snows from Karakoram mountain range recede. Apricot, cherry and mulberry trees are close to harvest, while recently planted crops of carrot, cauliflower, potato, spinach need regular irrigation and tending.