Uttarakhand floods

What happened in Uttarakhand a little over a year ago in June 2013?

According to the basic understanding all of us have, there was a heavy rainfall and it led to floods and there was a huge loss of life and property.

However there is a deeper view to it, according to the statistics, the rainfall in June 2013 was 120mm and in one of the previous years, rainfall was 146mm. Then why floods and damages occurred only this time?

Heavy rainfall true, under normal circumstances, the water would have flowed away. But there were landslides that occurred in the north-east region of Kedar Valley which had formed a lot of debris and this debris blocked the water and formed a temporary lake just above the Kedarnath town in north-west region, the lake couldn’t withstand the pressure and broke down. Combined with the huge debris formed by landslides the rain water created an additional stream, which rushed towards the Kedarnath town washing it away, the force was so large that it carried it further down into the Mandakini River resulting in more damage.

The below pictures received by ISRO from GIS satellite Bhuvan shows a clear picture of what happened.

One question that still haunts me is, are the mountains that fragile? What is the reason for the poor soil stability in the steep slopes of Himalayas?

While many believe the heavy rainfall has wreaked the havoc. The main reasons are man-made that have compounded the disaster.

Huge expansion of hydro-power projects, road widening to accommodate the ever increasing tourism, especially religious tourism are the main reasons for the unprecedented scale of devastation.

A researcher stated in an interview that he counted the number of vehicles that passed Prayag Bridge while he was having tea, and in 7-8 minutes there were total of 117 buses that passed the road.

Adding to these woes is the construction of dams. There were 70 dams that were planned on Ganga and its tributaries which could have affected Alaknanda and Bhagirathi in a major way, after the warning from the eminent Environment Engineers these projects are stalled now.

But would that be enough? The state being promoted as the tourist destination is coming in way of sustainable development.

The tourism in these hill states has to be controlled. But the fact is that majority of the tourists here are coming for the pilgrimages and raising barriers to entry will be met with vociferous opposition from the so called “Religious Fundamentalists”, and adding to it, the loss of revenue from the tourism has made Govt. go easy on this issue.

However we still need to find some way out. Here are some suggestions that could help

  1. Probably by imposing a steep tax on entry
  2. Stop registration of SUVs and cars in these areas. Allow only Govt. approved light and eco friendly vehicles.
  3. A strict ban on plastics and other non-biodegradable wastes.
  4. For every person entering the place should plant a tree from his pocket as a green tree toll.
  5. Limit the no. of tourists allowed per season by making a process for booking the tickets.
  6. Most importantly educate the people with signboards and Kiosks with the Do’s and Don’ts.
  7. Make sure the travel to the place is simple and sustainable and avoid giving licenses for 5star hotels and multi-cuisine restaurants.

The Mother Earth has shown her might. This should be considered as a warning and control the destruction happening there, else much bigger disaster are in the offing.

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