18 December 2010

The cost of reconstruction after the Attabad landslide

Posted by Dave Petley

Whilst it has dropped from the news during the winter period, the Attabad landslide crisis in Pakistan rumbles on, with dire consequences for the population on the north side of the barrier.  In the next few days the high passes into China will close again, rendering the population of Gojal isolated once again.  The Pamir Times featured an article a few days ago highlighting how tough conditions are once again:

“The sharp drop in temperature has further increased difficulties of the people in Gojal Valley.  A woman belonging to the remote Raminji Village of Gojal Valley delivered a child inside a van en-route to Aliabad, Hunza, while waiting for the boats to operate at Hussaini. She had been referred to the Aliabad Hospital due to gynaecological complications.  Around two hundred people are stranded on both ends of the lake that had formed due to a mega landslide incident earlier this year.  Hundreds of patients are forced to travel to other parts of the region due to lack of health facilities in Gojal Valley…A local lady doctor, Khadija Ali, who had volunteered to work in the difficult situation, was forced to leave her position due to uncertainty regarding her future caused by bureaucratic red-tapism and lack of political will … Adil Khan, a manager of the Mountain Area Support Organization (MASO), feared that with further drop in temperature the sufferings will increase immensely. “Yesterday a boat was stuck in middle of the lake because the water had frozen”, he said. “The people broke the sheaths of ice and made way for the boat but today the lake has frozen again”, he further said”

Meanwhile, today the Pamir Times featured an article on an agreement between the Chinese and Pakistani Governments regarding the reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway.  This suggests that the reconstruction effort is likely to take six years at a cost of US$275 million, and involve lowering the lake level by 30 metres (this has been imminent for months now), constructing six large bridges, constructing 70 small bridges, and presumably building a substantial stretch of new road.  The difficultes faced are shown in the picture below, taken from the dam in February, which shows the terrain through which the new road will need to be constructed:

The road will need to along the rock wall on the right side of the lake in this view.  The hazards of such a project are nicely illustrated by a news report from India (Caution the link has pop-ups!) today, about a landslide that has affected the Tehri hydroelectric project in northern India.  Note the last sentence of the quote:

“Power supply to Delhi and some northern states may suffer because a landslide on Friday has halted operations at the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC). The  flow of over 800 cusecs from the Bhagirathi, a tributary of the Ganga, into four turbines has been stopped, THDC sources said. Debris from the landslip has blocked a diversion tunnel forcing a stop to generation from the 1,000MW hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand….According to THDC officials, with the suspension of water supply, the entire process of power generation has virtually stopped resulting in losses to the tune of Rs 10 core per day. The landslide struck the under-construction 400-MW Koteshwar Hydro Project, a part of the second phase of the THDC’s mega 2400MW project, spread over 22 km covering Tehri and Koteshwar.   The tunnel, situated close to the Koteshwar plant, suffered extensive damage, sources said. The landslide was apparently triggered by construction of a link road.”

I am not sure as to the detail of this incident – does anyone have any more information?

Meanwhile, can I also recommend a great retrospective on the summer monsoon floods in Pakistan on Susan Kieffer’s wonderful Geology in Motion blog.