Why people in Pakistan risk their lives with broken-down cable car system


Almost 15 hours into the rescue operation, all eight passengers stranded on a cable car — whose rope broke mid-air in Allai Tehsil in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Battagram district — were successfully rescued by Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) on Tuesday.

Let’s have a look at why these make-shift cable cars are used in the northern region of Pakistan.

Why cable cars are used?

These homemade cable cars are commonly used in remote areas of the country where traditional infrastructure is lacking. While risky, they provide essential transportation solutions for communities with limited alternatives.

Use out of necessity

The use of makeshift cable cars is prevalent in eastern Mansehra, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and Gilgit Baltistan. These areas face geographical challenges and limited infrastructure, including schools and roads.

The necessity of connecting communities in these remote regions has led locals to construct these cable cars using scrap materials, often without official permits.

Design and construction

The cable cars are built by local communities, primarily from discarded materials like the upper bodies of pick-up trucks or even Suzuki vehicles. These cabins are then attached to cables, sometimes made of scrap iron, using ropes. The construction is makeshift and frequently illegal due to the absence of viable alternatives and the lower cost compared to building traditional infrastructure.

Risks and benefits

Despite the risks associated with these cable cars, they are widely used for traversing rivers and shortening travel distances between mountain valleys.

In the Allai region, where the recent incident occurred, a local resident obtained permission to construct a cable car named “Dolly” that shortened a two-hour walk to a four-minute cable car ride.

The affordability of these cable cars, with fares as low as 20 PKR, makes them a preferred mode of transport for many residents.

Safety concerns and incidents

While these cable cars offer a practical solution, safety concerns persist. In 2017, an illegal cable car crashed in Murree, Punjab, resulting in the deaths of 11 passengers.

Last December, 12 children had to be rescued after a rope snapped on a cable car in Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These incidents highlight the dangers associated with such makeshift transportation systems.

Government response

Following the recent incident, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar ordered safety inspections of all private chairlifts to ensure their safe operation.

However, the lack of significant investments in new infrastructure means that these homemade cable cars will likely remain the primary mode of transport for residents in mountainous regions.__The News