GILGIT: In spite of unprecedented flooding in the Hoper nullah — 25 episodes in a period of one month —, there has been no response by the authorities concerned as not a single official visited the area to ascertain the magnitude of the disaster, leaving the people of the downstream areas at risk of possible flash floods.

Locals say flooding in the nullah used to be occasional during the peak summer season in August, but this time, the stream remained flooded from July 22 till August 30 — a phenomenon attributed to GLOF events. On July 22, the stream overflowed and washed away houses and infrastructure.

At least 12 houses, schools, standing crops, 40 irrigation and water channels, trees, 600 kanal agricultural land, and bridges were swept away in Shaman, Tokorkot, Harchi, Ratal, and Hakalshal villages of the Nagar district.

Abid Hussain said the flooding in the Hoper nullah took them by surprise, adding that after the first flood, people started working on the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, including irrigation channels. However, on Aug 3, the nullah flooded again and flash floods caught volunteers off guard. They barely managed to save their lives, he said, calling it a miracle. One of the volunteers was injured, however.

Abbas Musavi, a community representative, lamented the government as well as private organisations ignored their community’s vulnerability to GLOF.

“The local administration didn’t even bother to declare it a GLOF event nor did they send experts to assess the cause of the disaster,” he added.

He said there was no early warning system and thousands of people living along the nullah were wondering if there would be more floods in the future. “They have been left at the mercy of the floods,” he added.

Social worker Hussain Ali told Dawn that despite massive funding to mitigate the impact of GLOF events, there were no boots on the ground to help the local community.

According to Met office, Gilgit-Baltistan has over 5,000 glaciers and countless glacial lakes; some of them have been declared “most dangerous”. A large number of inhabitants living alongside these streams were at risk of flooding. At least 17 residents were killed in a flood in the Ghizer district this year.

Shahzad Shigri, director of the GB Environmental Protection Agency told Dawn that record rainfall in the region and abrupt heat waves contributed to GLOF events across the region this year.

Meanwhile, at least a dozen families in the Shaman village continue to live in tents after their homes were swept away by floods in Hoper stream. “Winter is almost here, but the government has not arranged alternative shelter for the displaced people,” a resident complained. He added rehabilitation work on irrigation channels and other infrastructure had yet to be started.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2022

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