Source UNJLC
Theme Overland Transport
Countries Pakistan
Document type Other
Publication date 12/12/2005

12/12/05

   Starting Point  Ending Point
 Valley
 Thakot  Bana
 Thesil/Union Council Batagram/Thakot Allai/Bana
 Lat (N/S Decimal Degrees) N 34° 80061  N 34° 83040
 Long (E/W Decimal Degrees) E 072°93332 E 073° 06471
 Passable over full distance
No Car 4WD Truck 4MT Truck 10MT

General Overview

  • Primary objectives:
    The Thakot to Bana road is a key humanitarian access corridor in the winterisation effort being conducted by the Batagram relief hub, and review the impact of recent engineering work carried out by the national authorities.
  • Assessment team consisted of representatives from the UN (OCHA, UNJLC, WFP, WHO and UNDSS), Pakistan Army Engineers and the National Logistics Cell (a subsidiary group of the army) in order to provide a comprehensive range of technical skills and contextual knowledge of the road.
  • Initially the road was open to UN agencies and NGOs, however the road was subsequently closed by UNDSS to UN traffic at the end of October, though commercial trucks delivering relief items for the UN agencies and NGO 4x4's have continued to use the road on a daily basis.
  • Left 08:45. Overall time to Bana approx. three hours 30 minutes including regular stops.
  • Road asphalt for majority of the route with various pockets of dirt/gravel. Majority (80-90%) of pre-earthquake infrastructure and retaining walls are intact and generally in good condition. Areas on the route that have been improved and those of specific concern were also assessed in detail.
  • Road is used on a daily basis by cars, 4x4 and 4MT trucks. Traffic consists of commercially chartered WFP, IOM and IFRC truck convoys, mostly 4-6MT, but larger trucks have also been used. Also a significant volume of general traffic generated by the Army, displaced families and NGOs.
  • Road is maintained by a combination of Army Engineers and the NLC. The latter has assumed more significance as the Army has focused on pushing forward to clear roads further in the Allai Valley and NLC focuses on improving/maintaining the opened roads.

Thakot to Bana Road

1.) Distance from origin: approx 1km
(N 34° 80310 E 072° 94623)
Initial earthquake caused a landslide approximately 150m to 200m along the road. This took approximately 15 days for the authorities to clear. Several subsequent slides, cleared quickly by the authorities. However there remains a risk of another landslide in the event of a large aftershock, heavy/prolonged rain or solufluction (freeze/thaw action). Retaining wall on the river side largely intact and road itself wide enough to allow vehicles to pass side by side (see figure 1).

2.) Distance from origin: approx 4km
(N 34° 80782 E 072° 96439)
Track narrows and passes through a small settlement. Retaining wall has been weakened on the river side of the road, however it is being repaired and culvets are being installed to ensure adequate drainage. There is a large rock adjacent to the road at this bend but given its location it was not considered a risk.

3.) Distance from origin: approx 8km
(N 34° 80317 E 072° 98343)
Active quarry. No evidence of serious disturbance caused by earthquake or aftershocks. Slope itself intact and vegetated, no indications of slippage. The large rocks present here will continually be broken down and used in road repairs (see figure 2).

4.) Distance from origin: approx 9km
(N 34° 80239 E 072 °98935)
Hair-pin bend in the road, engineering work underway to improve condition of retaining wall and improve drainage. Majority of the work has been completed, drainage ditches under construction. Anecdotal evidence from NLC representative suggests a vehicle left the road killing occupants in the valley, but there is no evidence to ascertain if this was the result of anything other than careless driving or poor vehicle maintenance.

5.) Distance from origin: approx 11km
(N 34° 79265 E 072° 99595)
Engineering work observed here involved several pieces of heavy plant equipment as part of the ongoing NLC programme to improve the road after the clearance work undertaken by the Army Engineers. On the return leg of the journey the work had progressed by approximately 1km.

6.) Distance from origin: approx 18km
(N 34° 81774 E 072° 017720)
A section of the rock face has been dislodged during the earthquake. The landslide that has occurred effects approximately 18m of the road (see figure 3). Despite the fact this has been described as 'overhanging boulders' it is part of the rock face that was carved out during the initial construction of the road and does not hinder the passage of fully loaded 4mt trucks.

7.) Distance from origin: approx 18.5km
(N 34° 81774 E 073° 01738)
In close proximity to item 6 is another similar pattern of landslide activity. Evidence of cracks in both the rocks and the slopes in this area (see figure 4). Again, strong possibility that the freezing and thawing of the ground (solfluction) may cause further landslide activity over the coming months.

8.) Distance from origin: approx 19.5km
(N 34° 81923 E 073° 02582)
This section illustrates the improvement work undertaken by the Army Engineers and NLC. Potentially dangerous rocks have been removed from the upward part of the slope and been deposited below the road to improve safety. NLC has teams continuing this type of safety work continuously along the route (see item 5).

Additional Observations and Issues

Although not an integral part of the assessment the police escort system was a logistical issue in terms of its effect on movement/assessment. Main point of note with the police escort system accompanying the trip was its inconsistent application. For several stages there was no escort. Coordination appeared to operate at random. Furthermore, use of flashing lights and sirens when travelling from urban areas draws unnecessary attention to UN staff movements. Consensus amongst the team (and the broader humanitarian community) is that these escorts are likely to alienate the local population by potentially affecting the view of UN impartiality, neutrality and independence. This could lead to limited interaction with the communities and/or cause resentment, thereby increasing the likelihood of a security incident rather than reducing the risk.

UNJLC Logistical Analysis

The road is used on a daily basis for vehicles up to a truck size of 4mt and larger trucks (both the Army and IOM have reported being able to use hired 10mt trucks). Volume of traffic was hard to estimate as many of the commercial haulers used by relief agencies leave early in the morning so the bulk of this was not witnessed by the assessment team. However, during the trip, in excess of 50 trucks alone were counted on the road or in Bana itself. Other traffic included general commercial/private traffic, IDP movements travelling in rented 4x4/trucks and NGOs. One current problem faced by WFP in moving food up to Bana is a lack of off-loading capacity that forces them to stay overnight, particularly if trucks depart late in the morning from Batagram. The limited time spent in Bana (approx 1 hour) precluded further investigation of this and other logistical/labour issues. However, contacts were established with the NGOs to facilitate further information collection. Based on these observations and the road assessment, the major logistical concerns would be a follows:

  • Weather (rain/snow/frost) causing renewed landslides
  • Traffic safety issues related to congestion caused by excess traffic since road conditions have improved combined with poor driving/vehicle maintenance/overloading.
  • Congestion leading to delays in meeting delivery schedules. This in turn leads to delays in off-loading that reduce availability of transport assets for the following days operation
  • Inappropriate vehicles travelling on the road - heavy trucks have the potential to cause damage to road sections where repairs  are ongoing  due to their inherent size
  • An information system is essential to provide agencies with the following:
    • operational route planning information on the status of the road on a daily basis
    • monitor its viability as an evacuation corridor from Bana, so that a field camp can be established.

The Army Engineers, NLC and Save the Children were receptive to working with UNJLC to exchange information from Bana down to the UN Batagram hub. This could provide a continuous update on the road and weather conditions covering both the Thakot to Bana road plus other key routes of concern in the Allai Valley.

Summary of key points of concern

Location Risk Coordinates 
1km from Thakot Landslide plus slope instability N 34° 80310 E 072° 94623
18-18.5km from Thakot Landslide plus slope instability N 34° 81923 E 073° 02582

Recommendations and Action Points

Thakot - Bana Road

  • UNJLC together with all UN agencies, National Authorities/Army, NGOs and commercial contractors used by the relief community to immediately put in place a road monitoring system.
      • Establish map/bulletin board to collect and disseminate information via cluster system and other mechanisms in both Batagram and Bana relief communities.
      • Request establishment of checkpoints/observation post for the key areas of concern on the Thakot to Bana Road by national authorities. Other steps could include employing a whistle and flag system that is used elsewhere in the country for hazardous roads.
      • Solicit opinion of national authorities on possibility of restricting access to large trucks in access of 6mt to the road, particularly if road conditions show signs of deteriorating
      • Obtain details on planned maintenance schedule and further repair work planned, particularly for areas of concern
  • Police Escorts - a practical approach would be to re-visit the issue with the key stakeholders, FRC, Police, Army and UN to maintain a clearance system that allows national authorities to monitor UN movements and provide advice on security issues, but does not compromise the operational activities and principles of the UN agencies.

Assessor's Name  Iain Paterson (UNJLC)
Email iain.paterson@wfp.org
theiainpaterson@hotmail.com
Date Assessment conducted 21 /    12   /  05