GILGIT: The lives of nearly 50 families living in Fakar village, Nagar Valley are in danger as cracks in the slopes of the mountainous valley are widening at an alarming pace, making landslides imminent.
The situation is so critical that on Thursday night, a large portion of the village collapsed and landed in the Hunza River, blocking its flow temporarily. According to villagers, the collapsed land mass was estimated to be 1,200 kanals. Fortunately, no human loss was reported.
With a population of nearly 7,000, Fakar is the second largest village of Nagar Valley which is located at a distance of 70 kilometres from Gilgit. About five kilometres ahead of Nagar lies Miacher Valley which is also facing a similar situation; cracks in the slopes are also threatening the settlements there.
Calamity waiting to happen
“Mountain slopes in Fakar Valley spreading over 1.5 kilometres are laden with cracks that seem ready to give way any moment,” said Mujahid Ali Shah, a government school teacher in the valley.
Shah used to teach at Karakoram International University’s Department of Environmental Sciences and has studied landscape ecology from the University of Greifswald in Germany.
“Some 50 houses will be destroyed as well as large fields and gardens, and the lives of several people and their cattle will be lost if the slopes give way,” Shah told The Express Tribune on Saturday.
The valley has been affected by a similar incident in the past. According to locals, a disaster hit Fakar Village in the 1930s, killing more than 20 people. Fakar is located above underground fault lines, making the area more dangerous for settlements.
“One of the reasons behind the latest landslide [which pushed a portion of the village in the river] is the increase in agriculture activity in the area,” said Shah. He said over the past few years, the government and nongovernmental organisations have constructed water channels to help the valley’s residents in cultivation.
According to Shah, the other contributing factor was the recent spell of rain which also caused the cracks to widen.
Government efforts and response
The people of Nagar Valley say they have informed the relevant authorities about the fissures and impending disaster but to no avail. They maintain they spend their days and nights in fear because a landslide could occur any moment.
Gilgit-Baltistan Minister for Finance Muhammad Ali Akhtar who is also a resident of the valley expressed disappointment over the government’s inaction. “The government knew this was going to happen but it didn’t pay any attention to the matter,” said Akhtar.
However, there wasn’t complete inaction on the part of the government. After the landslide in the village, people living around the affected area were evacuated with the help of the local administration, police and volunteers. In a press release issued on Saturday, Hunza-Nagar Deputy Commissioner Imran Ali Sultan said, “I’ve ordered the establishment of a temporary emergency room in the valley where tents, blankets, medicine and relief goods will be available.”
With the help of the community, vulnerable households, fields and orchards are being identified so that requisite relief items may be arranged in order to remain prepared for any emergency, the press release added.
The DC said geological teams will be asked to study the area and recommend a long-term solution.Tribune