25 January 2013

Another valley blocking landslide in northern Pakistan

Posted by Dave Petley

First, can I just note that there is an awful lot going on in the landslide world at the moment.  I could blog on any of about a dozen different stories – quite remarkable.  I’ll try to put a summary post together soon, but unfortunately am very busy in my day job right now.

Three years ago, In January 2010, a large landslide in Northern Pakistan caused enormous disruption.  The landslide at Attabad, with which this blog was closely involved, remain unresolved, such that it affects the daily lives of thousands of people.  The ever-impressive Pamir Times, and various other newspapers in Pakistan, are now reporting another valley-blocking landslide in the same region, this time at Shigar in Skardu District.  This area is shown on the map below – according to Google Earth Shigar is in the valley above Skardu:


However, the Braldu River, which is reported to be blocked, is to the north of this area.  I have annotated the map below to show the river and the main towns:


The Braldu River flows westward over a course of about 70 km, fed by the Baltoro and Biafo glaciers, before reaching the main valley to join the Shigar River.  The Braldu valley includes a number of settlements and a road that provides access to the town of Askole, which is the starting point for many mountaineering expeditions in the Karakoram Mountains, including K2.

At the moment it is difficult to know how bad the situation is at this site.  The Pamir Times reports that the valley is blocked and that a lake is building, and they have a picture that appears to confirm this:



However, it is impossible to assess the scale of the landslide from this image.  They also report that:

Imran Nadeem Shigri, former Tourism Adviser, has said that the newly formed landslide lake in the Braldu valley of Shigar, Skardu District, can prove to be disastrous for the region’s economy, if it is not dealt with on emergency basis.  In a press statement, the senior PPP leader has said that the Braldu River Lake is as sensitive as the dammed Hunza River – blocked by a landslide at Attabad since January 2010.

Clearly this landslide requires urgent attention.  I can only hope that it proves to be less serious than the above quote suggests.