CHITRAL: The residents of the disaster-prone villages of Chitral have formulated their own disaster risk management plans to mitigate the destruction caused by natural calamities.

Wasif Ahmed, resilience manager of an international organisation based in Chitral, told Dawn that the region was highly vulnerable to natural hazards like hydrological, geo-climatic and glacial lake outburst floods (Glofs).

He said a number of natural disasters had struck Chitral during the last about 15 years, claiming scores of lives and sweeping away more than five villages. He said loss to the physical infrastructure was estimated at Rs16 billion.

“Chitral is home to 543 glaciers spreading over 4,000 square kilometres, out of which, 116 have been declared sensitive and 10 hyper-sensitive. Most of these glaciers are said to be at the verge of explosion, triggering Glofs,” he said.

“The vulnerable communities have made them highly resilient to such disasters. If a village is hit by a disaster they manage it efficiently by mobilising their own resources and volunteers to carry out rescue operations.”

Trained by Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) the vulnerable villagers have formulated their own disaster risk management plans keeping in view the nature of the hazard and its anticipated magnitude, he explained.

“As per the management plan, a stockpile of non-food items is maintained at the union council level to be moved to the affected area without waiting for the government response,” Wasif Ahmed said.

He said the trained volunteers rushed to the community emergency response team (CERT) within a few minutes of the occurrence of the disaster and started search and rescue operations. Women had also been included in the scheme, he added.

He recalled that a group of volunteers had rushed to a village in Karimabad valley last year in no time, shifted the injured to safe places, provided them first aid and arranged food supplies for the displaced.

Mr Ahmed said the community-based risk management mechanism had helped people in the disaster-prone valleys of Chitral in an efficient way.

He said the residents of the flood-prone villages had recently put in place an early warning system and deputed a person in the highlands with a mobile phone who promptly informed them about any incoming flood.

In July last year, the residents of Golen valley rushed to the higher lands within 10 to 15 minutes of the explosion of a glacial lake after the person deputed at highlands informed them about it, he said.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2021

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