The Attabad Lake in Hunza, on the main Karakoram Highway, is a gorgeous lake and a major tourist attraction. It was created as a result of a massive landslide on January 04, 2010. The incidence claimed precious human lives and properties appearing a doomsday at the time of occurrence, but the entire scenario changed over the time and unlocked a range of opportunities in the region. The lake has earned a great reputation and already placed itself as a leading tourist hotspot drawing a multitude of visitors on daily basis.
The Attabad Lake is located about 19 km east of Karimabad, Hunza, in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. It is located on the Karakoram highway, the main trade artery connecting China with Pakistan. The lake is about 120 km from Gilgit and can be accessed in about 3 hours.
The name “Attabad” to the lake was labelled because of the devastated valley of “Attabad” that created the lake. It was the time of peak winter season when a massive chunk of the valley slid directly down to the Hunza River killing 20 residents, hundreds of livestock, and resulted in the loss of productive land and valuable property. The mudslide then created a solid, more than a kilometre long, barrier on the Hunza River and completely blocked the flow of the river right below the valley. The routine movement on the Karakoram Highway was disrupted like never before.
Due to the barrier created by a mudslide, the river gradually swelled and began to create a water reservoir which ultimately submerged the annexing valleys upstream. Ayeenabad was completely sunk, some 40 per cent of the Shishkat Valley went under water and productive land including houses, shops, and hotels along the 19 km section of the KKH from Attabad to Hussani Village immersed completely. As a result, more than 6000 people displaced, trade and travel along the KKH disrupted, and a population of more than 25,000 residents of Gojal region was badly affected.
The Hunza River began to overflow on the main barrier in June 2010, after some five months since it was created and an immediate spillway was created with the help of FWO (Frontier Works Organization) of Pakistan Army to reduce the water level. It was the time when the length of the lake was 21 km and depth at the deeper end was about 358 ft. It was a new hope for the residents when the water receded from the lake and much of the land and valuable property began to reveal.
The incident disrupted the entire communication system and the people of the region remained stranded for several months. For the business community, it was equally damaging while a grave concern for tourists. Winters turned out to be oppressive for commuters, either travelling in a topless ferry or by foot, during the freezing windy season when the unbearable currents directly hit the face. The supply of basic food items and medicine, travelling with elderly people and patients, getting across with personal vehicles, or transporting mass trade goods would always be a risky job.
Most of the residents of the affected region would make their living by selling local produce including crops, fresh fruit, and dry fruit. On one hand, the productive land that yielded crops and fruit was lost and at the same time whatever gained from the remaining land could not be transported to the market in a timely manner. This also resulted in a huge financial loss for the residents.
Immediately following the incident, NDMA provided helicopter service for the locals to tackle the emergency yet it was not possible to continue the same. As an alternative, manual boats were introduced which remained in service until the broken connection of the KKH was reestablished in August 2015 by pushing the solid rock through 5 long tunnels.
Speedboats were launched to cater tourists and several camping sites were also established by residents at various sites on the bank of the lake. Almost every year a new development took place, ever since the lake was created, allowing tourists to have more fun than ever before.
Today, Attabad Lake is a favourite tourist attraction. It makes a close border along a 19 km section of the KKH allowing tourists to have multi-dimensional views of the lake from several well-organized viewpoints on the highway, particularly, of its deep blue water surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and valleys. The series of long tunnels, bridges with scenic views, and speedboats and ferries providing tourists with water sports opportunities are the major attractions and giving ever passerby a joyous experience.
Local people have now started to reestablish houses and businesses while investments are also being made to build new infrastructure to attract and to cater to tourists. There are several stunning views of the surroundings, particularly of Passu Cones, from the Lake while the view of Lake from the top of surrounding valleys and mountains are simply outstanding.
Attabad Lake is accessible year-round as it is situated on the main KKH which always remains open. New developments each year make it further attractive and draw more tourists than ever before.