KHAPLU: Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region has been facing massive power cuts after several flash floods damaged key road and power infrastructure in different areas of the country’s mountainous north, residents and officials said on Sunday.
Heavy rains have triggered flash floods across Pakistan since mid-June, with large swathes of land inundated and hundreds of thousands forced out of their homes. At least 777 people have so far died in various rain-related incidents across the country, with the southwestern Balochistan province being worst affected, according to the country’s disaster management authority.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, monsoon downpours have so far triggered more than a hundred flash floods, according to Kamaluddin Qamar, director-general of the GB Disaster Management Authority (GBDMA). Raging flood waters have killed nine people and damaged more than 20 power houses, leaving the region without electricity.
“There has been no electricity since last week. We are not in a position to work without electricity because 90 percent of our work is associated with power,” Shujaat Hussain, who works as a carpenter, told Arab News on Sunday.
“Though we have to face load-shedding in winter every year, this year we are facing the worst kind of load-shedding in summer. We can’t go home because we are unable to earn and buy things for our children.”
Ali Raza, a steel worker based in Khaplu valley, told Arab News they were receiving electricity for up to two hours a day.
“We open our workshop early in the morning, spend the whole day without working, and close the shop in the evening. And we are experiencing this for the last one month,” Raza said.
“As soon as we start running our machines after power supply is resumed, it is disconnected once again. How can we feed our children and fulfil our needs, if we don’t get electricity?”
Raza appealed to the government to ensure power supply for at least six hours a day for them to make ends meet.
Pakistan’s mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan, an impoverished part of the larger Kashmir region, is the gateway of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with a huge potential to generate hydropower, but its residents complain of reaping fewer rewards from the $65 billion corridor project.
The GBDMA director-general said the region has reported 106 flash floods since July 1, which have damaged 510 homes, 50 bridges and 22 powerhouses.
“This year we have seen more GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) events and natural disasters in GB as compared to past. The melting of glaciers enhanced as we faced three heat waves this season,” Qamar said.
“We are working on public awareness about disasters and making an assessment of the multi-hazard vulnerability of all districts to deal with these events.”
Residents of other districts, including Skardu and Hunza, also complained of facing the worst kind of power outages.
“The residents of Talu valley of Skardu are facing 15-16 hours of load-shedding daily for the last one month,” Iqbal Salik, a resident of Skardu, told Arab News. “There is no proper management by the power department of transformer repairs. That’s why the residents are spending nights in darkness.”
Ghulam Murtaza, a chief engineer at GB power department, said people were “temporarily” facing load-shedding due to the flood situation.
“We live in such a terrain where we cannot stop natural disasters, including floods. Water channels and [storage] tanks of powerhouses are also damaged due to flood, but we leave no stone unturned to restore electricity as soon as possible,” he said.
Murtaza said the power generation capacity of Gilgit-Baltistan was 122 megawatts (MW), while the demand was more than 250MW in summer. He said the government was working on various projects, including 30MW Ghowari project and 24MW Harpo project, and the power crisis would be contained in the coming years.