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Landslides and avalanches threaten Badakhshan locals

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BADAKHSHAN, 11 November 2007 (IRIN) – Over 1,000 poor people living on the steep slopes of a mountain in Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan are being urged by aid agencies and authorities to move as they are at risk of being killed in landslides and avalanches.

A joint survey conducted by the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), the UN and the provincial government found that seismic activity is creating widening gaps in the middle of Sia Shakh mountain in the Batash area of Faizabad city, the provincial capital of Badakhshan. Concerns are that this movement could dislodge large boulders which would cause severe damage to settlements below.

“We have recommended that all residents should evacuate the area before winter,” said Mohammad Othman Abuzar, president of the ARCS in Badakhshan.

In winter, rain and snow typically blocks access to rural areas in Badakhshan’s Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges. In addition, heavy weather conditions would increase the probability of landslides and avalanches.

Nowhere to go

Hundreds of families who could afford to move have already left the mountain side, Abuzar said. However, about 300 destitute families who still live in the area say they cannot afford to abandon their homes and livelihoods and move to other locations permanently.

“This is everything we have,” said resident Niaz Mohammad while pointing to a one-storey house adjacent to the affected mountain.

“There is nowhere we can move to and have a house of our own,” added the poor father of five.

The ARSC-led survey also found that several locations across Badakhshan province are vulnerable to varying levels of tectonic activity.

“About 2,000 people in Badakhshan live in insecure areas where there are serious risks of landslides and avalanches,” Shamsurahman Shams, deputy governor of the province, said.

Provincial officials concede that little has been done so far to tackle this vulnerability and avert possible human tragedy.

“We all know one day a human catastrophe will happen in this province if the problem is not solved promptly and appropriately,” Abuzar said.

Long-term solution

Though Badakhshan is sparsely populated, with its estimated 700,000 residents averaging 16 people per square kilometre, local officials say access to land, both for housing and agriculture, is a major problem in the province.

One solution Shams offered is the distribution of land in neighbouring provinces, such as Kunduz and Takhar, for vulnerable Badakhshi families.

Any decision on relocation and land distribution in other provinces, however, can only be taken in Kabul, the capital, and would require strong political backing in the Afghan government and National Assembly.

An assessment team from Kabul is expected to visit Badakhshan province in the near future to recommend solutions after consultation with concerned community and provincial authorities, Mohammad Aslam Fayaz, deputy head of the Afghanistan Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), told IRIN.

“There needs to be a long-term solution to the problem of vulnerable families in Badakhshan,” said Abdul Karim, deputy head of the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) in Badakhshan province, adding that any solution should entail the right to housing and livelihoods.

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Written by afghandevnews

November 11, 2007 at 9:29 pm

Posted in Natural Disasters

One Response

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  1. It just happens that areas that have been hit recently are the areas where there are more poor – such as coastlines and on subduction zones…. And – there are more poor anywhere you go than there are wealthy and the poor are usually packed in tighter than the rich.

    The Greek gov. is trying to pay people to move from the Vesuvius area, which is expected to blow and if the Cascadia Subduction zone blows, or if Yellowstone lets go, those are in areas that there are a good deal of people not considered poor – but the poor will get hit harder — because there are more of them, third world or USA, there are just more. Makes me wonder what the agenda of such reporting is.


    November 25, 2007 at 5:06 pm

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