Baltistan, Pakistan’s Forgotten

Sep 23, 2010
In the region of Baltistan, in northern Pakistan, the devastation of heavy monsoon rains has increased the state of poverty that the inhabitants of the area have been suffering for years.
Card image cap

Baltistan is a mountainous landlocked region between China and India, commonly referred to ‘Pakistani Kashmir.’ A place virtually isolated from the rest of the country where 96% of the area is composed of mountains between 4,000 and 8,000 meters. A region where the presence of the Pakistani state since independence from Britain in 1947 has been minimal.

Baltistan is home to some 45,000 families, with an average of 8-10 people in each, of which 90% live from subsistence farming in an arid, high mountain region with extreme weather; 30 º C in summer and -20 º C in winter , where the land allows only one crop a year, mainly wheat. This is supplemented by fruit trees and milk from the few cattle they have.

For other foods such as sugar or oil and products such as clothing, building material etc, the people are directly dependent on imports from the south. The only means of communication is the Karakoram Highway, which was heavily damaged and closed in several sections after the monsoon. Also, the difficulty of access is increased by the almost total lack of fuel which makes it impossible, in many cases, to transfer the goods to these remote valleys.


Floods

Although in the past, this region has suffered floods and landslides, have never before has it been faced with a situation as catastrophic as this. Monsoon rains do not usually come to this area - the Himalayas, which lie to the east usually make a natural barrier. However, on the morning of August 7, 2010 the monsoon rains arrived in Baltistan.

The villages near the rivers were flooded by the overflow of the Indus River and various tributaries, whilst the villages in the foothills of the mountains were hit by landslides and rocks that smashed everything in their path. In several areas the storms broke off chunks of the glaciers which came downhill with the rock and soil.


More than fifty people were affected, five seriously injured in Qumran, Talis Karkh and Ghursey Frano. In two villages, Talis and Qumran, fifty-one people were killed. Across the region, thousands of animals died, thousands of trees fell and a large percentage of crops were lost.


Talis Disaster - Statistics

In total, 3000 people have been affected by floods. Earth and stones cascading down from the mountains and the rising river levels caused several landslides.

 

The greatest damage was the loss of 13 lives and the disappearance of two villagers, presumably still under the 2 or 3 meters of mud and earth that still cover the affected area. In addition 20 people were injured and are receiving medical treatment.

The disaster has directly affected 239 families and caused damage to 75 houses. Of these, 26 houses were completely destroyed.

46 hectares of land were damaged by water and extensive areas of cultivation were covered with mud and stones. Over 3,000 trees were lost of which almost half were fruit trees.


Some families lost their entire crops. In total the crops lost were, mostly wheat (76 700 kg), vegetables (33,900 kg), apricots and apples, and fodder (213,960 kg) which is used to feed cattle during the winter. In addition 20 cows and 56 sheep and goats were also killed.

In the local market many shops were destroyed along with all the stock and appliances. Of these shops, twenty-seven were completely destroyed or partially demolished.

The electricity substation supplying the valley was completely destroyed, and according to government estimates it will take two to three months in repair and restore the electricity to the families.

The floods also swept away the main road, the only road to join the people in the valley below. Immediately after the flood in Talis, as an interim measure, the village men – constructed a bridge made from logs. In addition to the main road, numerous secondary roads, community buildings and irrigation canals were severely damaged.

Following a recent reassessment, other losses have been identified including materials such as wire, electricity supply lines, telephone lines, school materials ranging from books, backpacks and uniforms, to tables, chairs and blackboards, various household utensils, especially those for the kitchen, and agricultural machinery for apricot oil production or wheat threshers, as well as other implements.


More information:
komunika@felix-baltistan.org
Tel: 944028915 / 673 96 98 77