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The valley of Shimshal – a geographical portrait of a remote high mountain settlement and its pastures with reference to environmental habitat conditions in the North-West Karakorum (Pakistan)

Lasafam Iturrizaga
GeoJournal
Vol. 42, No. 2/3, Tibet and High-Asia (July 1997), pp. 303-328
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41147094
Page Count: 26
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The valley of Shimshal – a geographical portrait of a remote high mountain settlement and its pastures with reference to environmental habitat conditions in the North-West Karakorum (Pakistan)
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Abstract

This article presents observations on the natural hazard potential for permanent and seasonal mountain settlements and infrastructure such as routeways and irrigation canals in the North-West Karakorum. The remote high mountain settlement Shimshal (3080 m), located in the upper Shimshal valley and surrounded by three potential natural glacier dams, is of particular interest. The permanent settlement of Shimshal and its seasonal pasture settlements in the Shimshal Pamir at heights of 3200 and 4600 m respectively, reach the upper limits for permanent and temporary settlement. The choice of location for settlement and agricultural activities is already dictated by relief conditions. Primary settlement areas are the sediment accumulations in the valley floors. The wide distribution of unconsolidated screes in particular prevents settlement expansion upwards along the valley slopes. Glacial outburst floods as well as seasonal flooding events further reduce the scanty settlement area, as well as being among the most devastating sources of danger. The production of debris and the supply of loose material deposits induced in connection with the glaciation history of the area becomes a permanent source of danger for human settlement through resedimentation in the form of rockfall or mudflow. Furthermore, canal systems essential for the survival of oasis settlements suffer annual destruction through mass movements on the slopes, induced by the glacially pre-formed relief. Thus the adaptation of settlement locations to a glacially formed mountain relief will be examined in this study, with particular reference to the geomorphological landscape situation. What makes the Shimshal settlement particularly interesting is its very isolated location at a distance of 80 km from the Hunza valley which contains the main settlement concentration of the North-West Karakorum. Traditional ways of life can be expected to be well protected from outside influences. In the North-West Karakorum we find a debris landscape which differs greatly in its development and distribution from that of the Himalayas, influenced particularly in the lower valley locations between 1000 and 3000 m by the different climatic situation, and where therefore in comparison with the Himalayas a completely different pattern of natural hazards arises.

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