January 2010, an acme season of winter in mountaineer area of Hunza Valley brought an unexpected massive landside before an expected snowfall; demolishing the Attabad village completely under rock stones and blocking the river Hunza. For once, majority of locals could foresee the tough times ahead. The river Hunza, flows between two rocky mountains and blocking the river didn’t take much time for water to rise. The only road link, Karakoram Highway (N-35), between South Asia and Central Asia went under closure giving diverse effect on local economy all the sudden. FWO started an operation of clearing up the debris while snowfalls and bad weather accompanied them hence the progress stayed very slow. In couple of months, the blocked river water raised enough to engulf the nearest village Aina Abad & formed threats for Shishkat to be the subsequent.
17th March 2010, Omer Sheikh considering that the situation is getting worse, requested fresh satellite imagery from Google for the area which could assist the on-ground organisations in humanitarian relief efforts. By 19th March, Daily Times reported that already 11 kilometres long lake has reached to an extensive height level of 215ft and its increasing 1.5 ft each day. The situation could go even worse with summer approaching and all snow melting from surrounding glaciers. Google approached NASA and satellite imagery taken on 16th March was released on all Google products including Map Maker on 3rd May 2010. The imagery helped contributors to map the area extensively so it can be used by anyone for any efforts. An appeal at Pakistan’s most read IT & Telecom blog ProPakistani, turned out to be very helpful with lots of people joined in for contributing for maps.
Till that the engagement of organisations expanded to enormous level which brought forward most of their efforts for a good cause.
- NASA kept updating with any fresh satellite imagery of the area.
- Google covered the issue at international level that helped in engaging more organisations into this matter. Google also kept updating the latest satellite imagery on their mapping products as when and where it was made available to them.
- United Nation UN Spider helped in updating the space based information regarding this event and also triggered the efforts from The International Charter and SAFER.
- United Nation’s departments Unitar & UNOSAT made their GIS resources available for public use.
- Pakistan Red Crescent Society and National Disaster Management Authority engaged in ground relief and rescue work around the area.
- Dr David Petley, from Durham University, United Kingdom, provided an excellent coverage on this incident on a daily basis at his blog.
Ali Musofer a resident of Hunza Valley and GIS specialist came forward to help his own people in this hard time. He provided an excellent and extraordinary location based updates on daily basis from ground. With all this data available but at different sources, we came up with a single page website idea based on daily updated maps by contributors from Google Map Maker and this all provided data layered at top of that. This gave a new interactive way of understanding the latest situation on ground.
This website is no longer updated after a critical decision made because of not enough available information from sources. The country being a security state, right of access to information for public is either very limited or the sources are not compatible with outsourcing technology resulting in manually digging the information through outmoded sources. Nevertheless, it had been a wholeheartedly efforts to help our people and for what we even kept updating the website, manually for over 6 months on daily basis. Omer also spoke on this issue at TEDx Lahore in July 2010 marking it an important issue which must be taken very serious.
This is the part 1 of the on-going story where we have tried to cover the earlier part of this incident and efforts made to in response. In next part, we will take the current situation in account, government interests on this issue and the views from local people suffering from this situation for more than 13 months now.