Glacier burst floods villages in Gojal


Weekly Bang-e-sahar Saturday, May 31—–June 6, 2008

By Farman Ali
ISLAMABAD, May 27: Gulkhin glacier caused a second flooding in four days in Gojal, upper Hunza, Gilgit District, on Sunday, damaging orchards and properties and suspending trade and traffic on the Karakoram Highway some 145 kilometres northeast of Gilgit city. Last Thursday the glacier’s snout had blocked the regular flow of a river in Gulkhin village area, causing a flood that disrupted life and communications in Gojal Tehsil close to the border with China. Traffic was resumed in the area on Friday after the Chinese engineers and the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) working on the KKH expansion project repaired the damaged road. But on Sunday the water building up behind the blockage burst again causing more damage and flooding new areas. Local people said the mudslides and flood were caused by dramatic changes in the behaviour of the Sheri Baigh glacier due to global climate changes. Dozens of houses, cattle-pens, potato and wheat fields, and orchards have been affected by the flooding. Telecommunication and road links between Gojal Tehsil and Gilgit were severed. Local boy scouts and volunteers constructed a makeshift wooden bridge to cross stranded passengers over. But Sunday’s flooding disrupted the traffic on KKH once again. Local people claim the glacial change has put some 5,000 people of villages of Ghulkin, Hussain and Borit are at great risk. They accuse the local administration of indifference, saying no high official had visited the area to take stock of the situation and provide relief to the people. In February a similar glacier burst had caused heavy damage in Passu village. The Gojal Tehsil is hub of many glaciers which have witnessed dramatic changes in recent years putting the population in danger. They asked the government to send experts to the area to monitor the changes in the movement of glaciers and the dangers the local population are facing and take precautionary measures. This phenomena was rare in the area but, according to scientists there has been a tenfold jump in such catastrophes in the past two decades. Glacier lakes in Karakoram, Himalayas and Hindukush are filling up with more and more melted ice.—Dawn

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