- The Tehsildar in Gulmit is supposed to coordinate at embarkation point in Gulmit side. However this is being done by volunteers from Gulmit local council who experience frequent ugly and quarrelsome behavior from needy travelers. On the dam site, traffic at one embarkation point is regulated by the contingent of Army Engineers under the supervision of a Junior Commissioned Officer, a Major is overall in charge, he has his camp in Karimabad and as per feedback, seldom visits the contingent at disaster site. The approach to this embarkation site is difficult especially for women and sick as well as transportation of goods – which can be done only as a backpack.
- The other embarkation point – relatively easier in approach, is free for private operators – there are two boats, one was brought by a dealer from Nagar who has imported a large consignment (60 truck loads) of fruit from China which he needs to ferry across the 11 Km Lake. He offers free available space to travelers as a goodwill service. The other boat is mostly used by the contractor to ferry the relief wheat consignment that government has allocated. He also provides some space for priority passengers such as sick and women.
- The Amy Engineers have supplied five 12-seater Fiber glass boats along with 9 operators. Four of these are used for free of cost ferry service to Ainabad, Nazimabad, Gulmit (including the residents in upper Hunza) while the fifth is allocated for rescue. They operate between 0830 AM to 05.00PM. The fuel for the outboard engines is being provided by the government of GB through the control of a PWD overseer mostly available on site, who also monitors the dam for water seepage from the dam.
- On the average each boat takes about one hour each side thus a boat can do only four round trips during a working day. Wind conditions force the operators to change the number of passengers they can safely ferry giving rise to mistrust and, unruly behavior and suspicions from the users on the intentions of these operators – written SOPs have neither been provided on Embarkation points nor on the boats. On the other hand operators show obvious signs of fatigue and overwork.
- Another nine wooden army engineer boats give a picture of wasted effort as all of them (Nine) are not usable – being from the condemned stock of owning Engineers unit.
- FUTURE PROSPECTS: The water level in the lake is increasing at 0.8 meters in 24 Hours, so far 9 houses (and landed property as well as animal sheds) out of 35 in Ainabad have got submerged. The FWO engineers have planned to excavate up to 30 meters from top of the debris to provide the overflow for the dam. They claim that they are within 95% of their work schedule which extends to first May 2010. By then the water level would have reached another 25 meters above the level on 17th March. This implies most of the remaining Houses in Ainabad and some eight to ten houses in Nazimabad will also get submerged before the water flows over the excavated spillway. There is no danger to any house in Gulmit or beyond.
- The seepage from dam has increased recently and in my view this is increasing the risk of uncontrolled bursting of lake. The engineers are optimistic that the over flow will not create a disastrous situation and in fact they have modified their original opinion and feel confident that the dam can be used for generation of electricity (this opinion has not yet been communicated to the government).
- The government of GB had not agreed to this proposal when I made it to them on 6th Jan – two days after the disaster. Since the water contact side has not been stabilized, I do not share this optimism now. It is too late as the ever increasing seepage points to a dangerous situation now.
- RECOMMENDATIONS: I have following recommendations for immediate consideration of FCNA, council for Pakistan/Hunza/FOCUS:
- The base operating camp by the army be shifted to Gulmit side as it will facilitate the travelers from upper Hunza
- Some of the volunteers (from Karimabad and Gulmit LC jurisdiction) be trained to operate the boats and army should give these boats on Loan to civil society (in fact this is on my agenda for my talks with commander FCNA when I meet him on Monday , (I have already discussed this point with president local Council Karimabad)
- FOCUS should immediately procure at least ten 10-20 men inflatable boats along with safety vests and put them in to operation between now and the time when government can make suitable arrangements for water or over land movement. These boats will also be of immense value to populations if the dam bursts uncontrollably and roads and or bridges between HUNZA/Nagar and Gilgit get damaged.