School Essay On Uttarakhand Disaster

As you all know few days back the Northern Indian states-Uttarakhandand Himachal Pradesh, and their adjoining areas have experienced heavy rainfall that triggered devastating floods and landslides. As of 21 June 2013, more than 1,000 people have died with many more missing. Damage to bridges and roads left over 70,000 pilgrims and tourists trapped in various places,of whom, many were rescued. As of 23 June 2013, about 22,000 people are said to be still stranded.

As of 22 June 2013, the death toll in Uttarakhandwas reported to be 1,000 with several more missing and more than 70,000 tourists and pilgrims stranded. By 23 June 2013, some sources claimed that the death toll could even rise to 5,000. The official death toll in Uttarakhand by 25 June 2013 was 822.


The upper Himalayan territories of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhandare full of forests and snow-covered mountains and thus remain relatively inaccessible. They are home to several major and historic Hindu pilgrimage sites and at least one such Sikh pilgrimage site besides several tourist spots and trekking venues. From 14 to 17 June 2013 Uttarakhand received heavy rainfall, which was about 375 percent more than the benchmark rainfall during a normal monsoon. This caused heavy floods in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal, and acute rainfall in other nearby regions of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Tibet. In the city of Dehra Dun, capital of Uttarakhand, this was the wettest June day for over five decades. Heavy rainfall for four consecutive days as well as melting snow aggravated the floods. Warnings by the India Meteorological Department predicting heavy rains were not given wide publicity beforehand, causing thousands of people to be caught unaware, resulting in huge loss of life and property.

Death and Damage at Kedarnath (Kedar Ghati):

Due to the floods, damaged several houses and structures, killing those who were trapped. The heavy rains resulted in large flash floods and massive landslides. Entire villages and settlements such as Kedarnath. Over 70,000 people were stuck in various regions because of damaged or blocked roads. Although the Kedarnath Temple itself had not been damaged, its base was inundated with water, mud and boulders from the landslide, damaging its perimeter. Many hotels around the temple were destroyed, resulting in several casualties. Most of the destruction at Kedarnath was caused by a sudden rapid melting of ice and snow on the Kedarnath Mountain, 6 km (3.7 mi) from the temple, which flooded the Charbari lake (upstream) and then Kedarnath. Within the temple, a panic-driven stampede resulted in several deaths.More than 500 people are currently missing from Kedarnath.The Uttarakhand Government announced that due to the extensive damage to the infrastructure, the temple will be temporarily closed to regular pilgrims and tourists for a year; but the temple and its rituals will still be maintained by priests.The Kedarnath Yatra would also not be held for the next 2 years.

As of 26 June 2013, the official death toll in Uttarakhand, based on the collected bodies of the victims, had crossed 20,000. Rescuers at the Hindu pilgrimage town of Haridwar on the river Ganga have been reported to have recovered bodies of 40 victims washed down by the flooded rivers as of June 25 2013.

Rescue Operations:

The Army, Air Force, Navy, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Border Security Force, National Disaster Response Force, Public Works Department and local administrations worked together for quick rescue operations. Several thousand soldiers were deployed for the rescue missions. Activists of political and social organizations are also involved in the rescue and management of relief centers. Helicopters were used to rescue people, but due to the rough terrain, heavy fog and rainfall, maneuvering them was a challenge. Ministers from all over the country are chipping in with aid, money is flooding the Uttarakhand Disaster Management and Mitigation Centre. All this has happened this past week after massive rains and floods ravaged the Himalayan State. On June 25, an IAF resue chopper crashed. Eight of those on-board were fatally injured.

Uttarakhand Floods Important Helpline Numbers:

  • Uttarkashi- (+91)1374-226461
  • Chomali- (+91) 1372-251437 | 9411352136
  • Rudraprayag- (+91) 01364-233727 | 9412914875
  • Control Room (Uttarakhand)- (+91) 0135-2710334 | 9557444486

How does it make you feel?

Devastating floods in Uttarakhand were a disaster waiting to happen

By Anoop Nautiyal

Published: 23:49 GMT, 26 June 2013 | Updated: 23:49 GMT, 26 June 2013

Uttarakhand is in shambles. Disaster, with most people calling it more man made than natural, has exposed the fragility of this beautiful, yet ecologically vulnerable region. Though the fury of nature has been unprecedented, many questions are being asked about the role of the state government.

These questions, based on equal doses of frustration, sadness and anger, are mainly being raised about the lack of disaster preparations and the development model pursued by the government.

By now several facts are well known. The Uttarakhand Disaster Management Authority, constituted under the chairmanship of the chief minister, has had no meetings in the past six years. Successive CAG reports have made scathing remarks on the lack of disaster management preparations in the state. Indiscriminate mining, haphazard urbanisation, rampant cutting of trees and forest covers, use of dynamites for road construction, encroachments, buildings, hotels, guest houses and travel lodges on the river bed, too many hydropower projects, changing river courses, poor structural safety - this was clearly a Himalayan tsunami waiting to happen.

The Kedarnath Temple amid damaged surroundings by flood waters at Rudraprayag in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand this week

Locals in the affected areas claim that this is only the trailer of the massive destruction that is lurking in this region of the country. Many are calling it a 'Human Tsunami'. Uttarakhand is prone to frequent flash floods, landslides and cloud bursts. Climate change is impacting rainfall and cloud bursts in the Himalayan region which have already seen increase in temperature that are two to three times higher than the average global temperature rise of 0.9 degrees.

Against this background, the state has miserably failed to develop any systems of early warning, forecasting and disseminating rainfall and landslide related information. Technology is available that can predict cloud bursts at least three hours in advance but no such sophisticated equipment is used in the state.

In 2008, the Doppler radar system was sanctioned for Uttarakhand but due to lack of coordination between NDMA, IMD and the Uttarakhand government, it was not purchased.

There are other challenges. Uttarakhand is politically as fragile as its mountain ranges. With six different individuals holding the chief minister position during the last 13 years, since the formation of the state in 2000, the average tenure of each has been two years. This has resulted in lack of continuity and failure in getting a firm grip on the issues plaguing the state.

Locals in the affected areas claim that the floods are only the trailer of the massive destruction that is lurking in this region of the country

These figures look even more ominous when compared with Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand's Himalayan neighbour. Himachal has had five chief ministers during the past 60 years. Only two, Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal, have held the reign of the state since the past 20 years.

The political fragility has resulted in ad-hoc and unplanned development. Successive governments have failed in creating any sort of medium term or long-term plan or vision for the state. Most decisions appear unconnected and lack coherence. They are mostly random in nature and pander to the demand of the moment. Political instability and inexperience have also resulted in lack of articulation about the firm and correct position to be taken by the state in several matters that are most important for them. Programmes and policies are started but often get stopped due to frequent changes. In this scenario how is sustained development possible?

Who is responsible? Clearly, the major defaulter is the political leadership of the state and the government of the day. The political leadership in Uttarakhand, with the exception of a few distinguished and sincere politicians, is widely perceived as being either corrupt and/or incompetent. Internal squabbles hardly leave any time for senior party leaders to give any quality time for public issues, strategic planning and the long-term development of the state.

Just before the massive disasters struck Uttarakhand, five MLAs of the ruling party were camping in Dehradun, for a few days, protesting against their own government and complaining about the lack of development in their respective constituencies. Bureaucracy is being adversely affected. When politicians frequently complain that bureaucrats are not listening to them and the bureaucrats retort that the politicians do not let them work, the leadership deficit at the highest levels becomes clear.

The government is now staring at mammoth challenges. They need to act and act quick on multiple fronts. As Uttarakhand continues to grapple with inclement weather affecting rescue operations and identification and disposal of dead bodies, the next set of action items need to be ready. Detailed impact assessment of affected areas and the learnings from this tragedy need to be documented. Immediate compensation of the locals needs to be finished on a war footing. Roads and bridges need repairs. Hospitals and food supplies need strengthening. Livelihoods dependent on the Char Dham Yatra need to be restored. It's a long list that requires serious planning, coordination and execution.

What next? Where does Uttarakhand finally move from here? This is not only a time to mourn, but also to reflect and create a blueprint for its future and destiny. The policy makers can move in either of the two directions-either follow the path that they have taken earlier and rebuild Uttarakhand on the poor foundation of unscrupulous and unplanned development. Or take a radical, new path and come up with a innovative and inclusive model of development built on the foundation of modern disaster management techniques and equal concern for the environment and livelihoods. This needs to be the starting point for this development strategy. This path will further require an open mind, belief in science and technology, exemplary leadership and genuine compassion and empathy for Uttarakhand. Let's see who is listening and will stand up to the challenge.

(The writer is the former COO of 108 government emergency services in Uttarakhan)

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