Food shortage looms in Gilgit-Baltistan as KKH remains closed for heavy traffic

Published September 15, 2022
A file photo of a bridge that was swept away by floods in Upper Kohistan on Aug 12, 2022. — Umar Bacha
A file photo of a bridge that was swept away by floods in Upper Kohistan on Aug 12, 2022. — Umar Bacha

Officials from Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday warned of a growing food shortage in the region as heavy traffic remains suspended on Karakoram Highway (KKH) in the wake of flooding across the country.

Flash floods, which have killed nearly 1,500 people and displaced more than 33 million in Pakistan, had damaged the KKH at Kohistan on Aug 31, blocking the passage of large vehicles and causing a shortage of petroleum goods and wheat in GB.

Talking to Dawn.com on Thursday, Food Secretary Safdar Khan said the movement of large vehicles remained suspended after a bridge on KKH was swept away by the floods, which was disrupting the delivery of wheat from Islamabad.

He said that citizens were complaining of a wheat shortage. “However, the delivery of wheat on a small-scale is ongoing,” the official said.

GB Government Spokesperson Ali Taj, on the other hand, held the federal government responsible for the looming crisis, saying that they had reduced the wheat supply in July, August and September.

According to Taj, the previous government would supply 133,000 tonnes of wheat to Gilgit. But the new coalition government slashed the supply by 30,000 tonnes and now the region was receiving 103,000 tonnes of wheat, he said.

Opposition leader in the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, Advocate Amjad Hussain, held the GB government responsible for the crisis, alleging that officials had illegally sold hundreds of sacks of wheat.

One resident, Mehtab Ahmed, said that he and his family had to make do without flour for 10 days each month. “The subsidised flour is not available in the market and what is being sold is too expensive,” he said.

Another citizen, Mumtaz Khan, said that his family had moved back to the village due to the unavailability of flour in Gilgit city. He maintained that he had borrowed flour from his relatives to make do for the time being as his father was ill.

Around 49 roads, 22 power houses, 78 drinking water channels, 500 irrigation channels and 56 bridges have been damaged across GB. The damage to private property has been estimated at almost Rs4 billion.

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