Booni, Pakistan: The Day the Glacier Broke

Booni, Pakistan: The Day the Glacier Broke

Pakistan floods

By Shams Uddin, Chitral Association for Mountain Area Tourism (CAMAT)


Booni is a village 80 kilometers to the north of Chitral town. Just like the rest of the villages in the Hindu Kush region, Booni is a fan-shaped landmass formed by glacial deposit at the mouth of what is called 'Booni Gol' or the stream of Booni, which cultivates the tracts of crops, vegetables, fruit bearing apple, pear and grape trees, and so on. On the afternoon of July 26th, 2010, a huge flash flood that originated from Booni Zom glacier smashed road networks, telephone and water supply lines, depriving the local communities of the basic life amenities. The jeep-able road that once connected Central Booni to Molgram in the south vanished in a flash and the blacktopped road cleanly swept. The proportion of the flood was so immense that the wide span of the stream course could hardly accommodate it.


Consequently, the overflow entered the settlements destroying houses, orchards, and washing everything on its way including a Jamat Khana. The irrigation channels branching off the main stream have been badly disrupted. This has left standing crops of rice, maize, and fruit bearing trees, orchards, and kitchen garden without water for more than a week, the cost of which for the locals, who largely depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood, could be immeasurable.


The topography of the post-flood Booni Gol presents an unattractive and unacceptable look. The green patches of crops/grasslands and the leafy overhanging trees that once decorated the line of the stream could be seen uprooted. This also means the life-time dreams of the locals woven into the serene beauty of the stream have been washed away by the worst natural calamity of our time. You will find the grief-stricken villagers standing at the edge and fearfully gazing into the abyss of the flood bed pondering over the factors that provoked the disaster.


Global warming-related flash floods have become a commonplace in the Hindu Kush mountains. Four years ago, the village of Sonoghor was totally destroyed, and Brep (another village in the north) partially plastered. Still in another instance, forty people in the Washeech village of Torkhow valley were killed when an unusual snow avalanche buried them in a harsh winter of early February. The trauma of the flood for the local communities has been enormous. The entire population was panic-stricken, and most obviously those living near the epicenter of the flood; mothers ran amok with their children pressed under their arms.


Young daughters hurried to collect household items and to bring livestock into safe places. Male family members started running with whatever valuables they could take. In no time, then, a large number of displaced people reached at Gahli playground, embarrassed and grief-stricken. They preferred to stay under the open sky in a torrential rain for the sake of their life. Many of them took refuge with relatives and family members in the nearby villages. The next morning tent village for the displaced was established at Gahli stadium right across the river from the village. Some people still preferred to have night stay in these tents to avoid the risk of being washed along the flood. The community was advised to remain alert a team of experts who conducted the aerial survey of the hazard-prone glacier.


In the meantime, the police and volunteers from the local community have been deployed to the upper region with a mission to detect early signs of another disastrous flood, which was perceived to have been lurking somewhere in the glacier. Aid efforts have not been arranged by government and non-governmental organizations to support these victims. There is a concern of cholera, typhoid and malaria and other water-born diseases spreading among those living in the tent village. The road links leading to the Chitral district and Booni have been cut off, which is expected to lead to rampant price-hiking for the locals, making the month of Ramadan unreasonably difficult for many of them.


More Information & How You Can Help - Standing together in climate disasters

The Travel Word - Floods Cripple Pakistan

Al Jazeera English (YouTube) - Parts of Swat still cut off by floods


*Please leave comments below to share relevant information and links on Pakistan floods relief and rebuilding efforts, and ways for individuals and organizations to help the victims in the short- and long-term.



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