Attabad Lake, Gojal, also known as Gojal Lake, is a lake in the Gojal Valley of northern Pakistan. The lake was formed due to a massive landslide at Attabad village in Gilgit-Baltistan, 9 miles (14 km) upstream (east) of Karimabad that occurred on January 4, 2010.
After the formation of the unexpected lake people used boats to cross the river. Hundreds of the locals and many tourists used the boat services started by the locals to cross the lake. On each side of the lake, where the highway abruptly disappeared under the water, the boatmen waits for customers who pay 300 to 500 Rupees fare. But now the boatmen in the area fear losing their livelihood after the completion of four large tunnels along the south shore of Attabad Lake. The work of these mountain boatmen in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region may be coming to an end, according to a report in the Washington Post.
With no other way for vehicles to cross the mountains, passengers and cargo had to be ferried across the water in hand-made wooden boats. Though the trip was often a joy for tourists, the hour-long ride was a major hassle for truckers, smugglers and local residents, some of whom had to cross the lake several times a week.
But in mid-September, after several years of construction, Chinese engineers completed four large tunnels along the south shore of the 13-mile-long lake. The project consists five tunnels with total length of seven kilometers, two bridges and 78 culverts. The tunnels have been named as Pakistan-China Friendship Tunnels. As a result, traffic can once again flow on the newly diverted Karakorum Highway, which may doom the livelihoods of hundreds of boat operators and day laborers who had become a mainstay of the local economy. Malik Shah, one of the boat operator said that:
“We are going to lose 50 percent of our business, probably more. Maybe the tourists will still come for us, but we do not know that, so maybe not.”
The 20-foot boats are colorfully painted with the same mosaics that Pakistani trucks are famous for. They are powered by two engines — and steering wheels from junked cars control six-foot rudders.
Before the tunnels opened, cars and sport-utility vehicles drove directly onto the boats using boards as ramps . People might be crammed in along with restless cattle, stinky chickens, or baa-ing goats. But when traffic was light, passengers could relax as their boats glided past snow-capped mountains, the sputter of the engines churning the water surprisingly therapeutic.
For trucks, however, the Attabad Lake was, literally, the end of the road. They were too heavy to be carried by boat, so the trucks’ cargo had to be offloaded by hand at the shoreline. It was then packed onto a boat and reloaded onto another truck at the other end of the lake.
The process took hours, creating dozens of jobs in a part of Pakistan where many families survive on just a few dollars a day. Ikram Ali, 32, who made about 35000 Pakistani Rupee a month offloading the trucks said that:
“It was fixed, permanent income. Now, I wonder if I will stay penniless for days.”
Another problem for boatmen is that the lake, which was initially 350 feet deep, is now gradually being filled in by silt from glacial runoff. Many boats this summer ran aground near the shoreline.