The most scenic valley of Ovir Lisht, Chitral, is always in dangerous of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) event. Residents of the area have been appealing for construction of a protection wall to save this green valley from possible flood havoc. Like those of the beautiful area of Arkari Valley in Chitral, the people of Ovir Lisht can neither sleep peacefully at night, nor sit comfortably during the day – or for that matter, eat in peace. The main reason for these people’s worries is the avalanche that is always a sword dangling over their heads. This correspondent visited the area, which also happened to be the first visit of any media person into the valley. The local people say that when the centuries-old glacier lying on the mountains at Mumi in the same valley burst, it caused a devastating flood in which many people died. “There are centuries-old avalanches/glaciers on the hill above our settlement which can cause a flood at any time,” they say. “We cannot prevent natural calamities, but we can minimise the rate of damage with better strategies.”
Local resident Mir Ghazi says, “We visit here many times during the day to see if this avalanche has exploded and sometimes we also circle round at night if there is any threat of flooding, so that we might evacuate the area in case of danger. Even if someone accidentally calls out the word ‘flood,’ our sleep becomes impossible and we flee to safe places.”
Daniyal, who is a resident of the same area and works in Karachi, says that urgent construction of a protective wall is necessary to protect this beautiful valley from flood damage before the GLOF bursts and wreaks havoc. “Once a disaster has taken place, then the authorities come into action and build protective walls and ramparts, but at that time there is no benefit to them.”
This correspondent spoke to a number of other residents about the situation.
Zartaj Ali Khan says that this valley is heaven in this season. “But there is always fear at the top of heaven. Even while eating, if someone jokingly says that there has been a flood, we leave the food and run away.” Zartaj further says that beans, peas, lentils and all kinds of vegetables grow in this area, and the possibility of flooding endangers these agricultural activities in addition to the grave danger to human life.
Mir Shaja’Allah says, “We are grateful for this is the first time that a media team has come here and is asking about our issues and problems.” He adds: “The people here are very hardworking and send their children out of here for education because there is only one primary school locally. But despite all these difficulties, our true problem is that we cannot save this beautiful town from the destruction of floods. Due to climate change, where the whole world has been affected, this beautiful valley also is constantly under threat of destruction. The people here are farmers, and all kinds of fruits grow here. The weather is so cold that the apricots are not ripe yet, but in other areas and in Chitral too, the apricots are ripe. Here, we all have the same demand: that a protective wall be built on both sides of this valley so that we can sleep peacefully.”
All these people have appealed to the provincial and federal government as well as international organisations to help save their beautiful valley from possible flood damage due to a GLOF event.
They argue that a protection wall should be built on both sides of the flood nullah. It should be noted that Ovir Lisht and its suburbs have a population of 4,000 people, where there is neither a hospital nor a primary school for girls.
The people live next to a mountain range, on top of which there are centuries-old glaciers, which can burst at any time and cause a big flood. Only timely intervention now can help to avoid large-scale destruction in the near future.