17 June 2010
Attabad – locals taking the situation into their own hands
Posted by Dave Petley
Several media outlets in Pakistan are reporting that the level of frustration amongst the displaced people at Attabad has reached the point that they have taken the situation into their own hands. The Pamir Times has a pictorial record of what they have chosen to do – a large group have been working on the banks of the channel in an attempt to widen it. There is a full gallery of images here, from which these are taken:
Unfortunately, the amount that they can do in actually widening the channel is limited, whist the risks to those undertaking this work are high. Hacking away at the toe could destabilise the slope such that it collapses, dumping all of them in the water, and there is the potential for further slides from the slope behind.
Earlier reports suggested that people trying to join this effort from downstream has a confrontation with the police, and at least one person was injured.
I fear that this will ramp up the pressure on the authorities such that they will end up blasting the boulders without undertaking a full analysis. I hope that this does not happen – but that a proper study is undertaken urgently.
It seems the right bank at the top of the spillway is 15-18 feet above water level and that there might be enough room for bulldozers to cut another spillway channel. The spoil could be pushed into the fast flowing water where it would be carried away. I don't see how people with shovels could get this done soon, but if they embarrass the government into taking effective action, that will be a major accomplishment.I see large cracks in the banks above where people are working and share the worry that a bank could slide or topple into the water and carry several people with it.
I live in the UK and have been following your blog and the Pamir Times for many weeks now.My heart bleeds for these desperate people who are forced through necessity to do a job (using little more than their bare hands) that the government should have done months ago.
From the Express Tribune:"The region’s home secretary, Asif Bilal Lodhi, said that a few “motivated” individuals unnecessarily created panic and unrest in the area and they will be booked.Lodhi, who is also director-general of the region’s Disaster Management Authority, said that the protesters had not only risked their own lives, but had also endangered the lives of thousands others who lived in downstream areas.“Who would have been responsible if their so-called sacrifice created a flashflood, damaging property and endangering lives of other people?”This statement by NDMA's regional director brings NDMA's understanding of the situation into serious question. One would think that he would have better advice from geotechnical professionals — or is NDMA not bothered to obtain it?
The photos at Pamir Times are impressive for at least two reasons: the first is the sheer number of people engaged in the activity. You have to admire their desire to do something, even if what they are doing may seem inconsequential.The second is that, with all the people along the banks in all the photos, you really get a sense of the size of the channel and the scope of the process.BTW, may of the most precariously positioned workers have safety lines, although I can't tell whether they are solidly tethered at the top.
After seeing these photos, it occurs that before blasting, the spillway could be altered with directed high pressure water streams. California goldminers were pretty effective using them. It may be as simple as a fire hose and nozzle powered by an out-sized funnel suspended in the flow above the first white water.Three of the photos (PR3, PR5, PR17) show the flow over that long low boulder well. 3 and 5 suggest that the stream is cutting on the side opposite.Much of the matrix looks like clay. Any comment?
Local press reports the regional government has proclaimed Section 144 which prohibits gatherings of more than five people, has reinforced the police barricade to prevent people reaching the dam from downstream and has seized boats on the upstream end. Demonstrably the government is in charge, but sadly witless and ineffectual.
the only thing that needs to be really done is to somehow remove the first boulder blocking the mouth of the spillway. Once that is removed, the channel will make its own enlarged course through vertical and horizontal erosion. I don;t know why these people are trying to widen the channel in other places. Either a channel should be dug around the boulder or the builder should be removed through, drilling holes and dismantling it, blasting it.
In the context of current scenerio, the best adoptable and workable option is blasting of the spillway in series to widen it, other wise it would get a permanent structure.Farman