Gilgit Baltistan: Ataabad Artificial Lake is a Ticking ‘Water’ Bomb
The Entire Population of Gilgit-Baltistan Must Unite to Change Pakistan’s Apathetic Attitude Towards the Affected People of Hunza and Gojal: Gilgit Baltistan National Congress (GBNC)
Below is a press release published by the Gilgit Baltistan National Congress (GBNC):
The members and supporters of Gilgit Baltistan National Congress gathered at Ellicott City, Maryland on July 18, 2010 to discuss the deteriorating conditions in Hunza; a valley of the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir currently occupied by Pakistan. Some six months ago, glacial outbursts and landslides created an artificial lake near Ataabad, which led to inundation of several villages and displacement of more than thirty thousand residents of Hunza. Pakistani government’s apathy has since then forced many affected villagers to attempt suicide. At the same time, hundreds of children and women living in the makeshift tents have developed physical and psychiatric illnesses. On the occasion, President of GBNC, Imtiaz Hussain condemned the authorities for calling the affected protestors as troublemakers. He said, ‘the cash compensation announced by Pakistani Prime Minister is inadequate to meet the needs of those living in the shelter camps. While thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Gojal suffer from lack of health, hygiene and educational facilities, the authorities continue to transfer millions of dollars worth of revenue to Islamabad which is being generated from exploiting local natural resources.’
Senge Sering, Director of GBNC, who had earlier accompanied Imtiaz Hussain to brief the congressional legislative staffs on related issues, informed the attendants that Pakistan is developing large-scale infrastructure in the ravines of the Karakoram Range for her strategic and military needs. He said, ‘Karakoram is considered the youngest and most vulnerable mountain range in the world and such illegal interventions are causing excessive glacial melting, glacial lake bursts, landslides and rock shifting. These unwarranted mega projects might satisfy military and strategic interests of Pakistan and China, but not without heavy cost to the local people.’
Shujaat Ali of GBNC expressed concern over government’s decision to continue large scale projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, including the Diamer Dam, Bunji Dam, Karakoram expressway and several tunnels, which are being built to lay rail tracks and oil and gas pipelines across the Karakoram Range to transport minerals and fossil fuels from Middle East and Africa to China. Rinchen G. Ali of GBNC said that expansion of the Karakoram Corridor will cause immeasurable ecological damage to the region. He said, ‘if these projects continue then the time is not very far when several Ataabad like incidents will occur. In the end, the responsibility of harming the land and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan rests on Pakistani rulers.’
Imtiaz Hussain demanded from Pakistani government to allocate adequate funds for the wellbeing of the affected people. He also emphasized that future revenues from trade and transit over the Karakoram Highway should be exclusively reserved for the affected people of Hunza and Gojal, which otherwise fill government coffers in Islamabad.
At the end of the meeting, the President called the press to release the statement.