Flood In Uttarakhand Essay Writer

It is one week since Uttarakhand’s worst disaster in living memory. Flash floods resulting from extremely intense rainfall swept away mountainsides, villages and towns, thousands of people, animals, agricultural fields, irrigation canals, domestic water sources, dams, roads, bridges, and buildings — anything that stood in the way.

A week later, media attention remains riveted on the efforts to rescue tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists visiting the shrines in the uppermost reaches of Uttarakhand’s sacred rivers. But the deluge spread far beyond the Char Dhams — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath — to cover the entire State. The catchments of many smaller rivers also witnessed flash floods but the media has yet to report on the destruction there. Eyewitness accounts being gathered by official agencies and voluntary organisations have reported devastation from more than 200 villages so far and more affected villages are being reported every day. Villagers whose homes, lands and animals have been swept away by the floods are in a state of shock trying to imagine day-to-day survival without their basic livelihood assets.

Distorted coverage

The national media’s focus on the plight of tourists has grossly distorted the true nature of the tragedy even in the Char Dham area. It has not reported on the fate of the thousands — almost all male — who come from the villages in these valleys (and elsewhere) to earn a major part of their families’ annual income on the yatra routes during the tourist season. They help run the dhabas that line the entire 14 km trek route from GauriKund to Kedarnath; they sell raincoats, umbrellas, canes, walking sticks, soft drinks, water bottles, home-made snacks and other supplies. On their backs, they carry children, the old, the infirm and tourists who are simply unfit and out of shape to walk the entire route. They run along the path with their ponies or horses carrying yatris.

Local residents tell of village after village in the Mandakini valley below Kedarnath resounding with wails from homes whose boys and men have not yet returned and are now feared dead. One village near Guptkashi alone counts 78 missing.

The tragedy of the families dependent on religious tourism for much of their annual income is compounded by the fact that the yatra season is over for the year, and is unlikely to resume even next year given the destruction of the roads and bridges in the upper reaches. Several thousand Char Dham valley families will now fall below the poverty line. Till the revival of the yatras, what will be the alternative sources of employment for the newly unemployed? Most likely we will see increased male outmigration from the region.

Last week’s disaster not only spelt doom for thousands of household economies but also dealt a grievous blow to Uttarakhand’s lucrative religious tourism industry. With the media focus almost exclusively on the fate of pilgrims, the scenes of the deluge and its aftermath will linger on in public memory, making the revival of tourism doubtful in the foreseeable future. The abject failure of the State government, political leaders and the administration is therefore likely to impoverish the State coffers too.

The scale of participation in the kaanwar festival that starts in July — when about a million people throng to the banks of the Ganga at Hardwar over a couple of weeks and take back Gangajal to their homes — will be revealing. The pressure on the State government will continue through September when the Nanda Devi Raj Jaat (yatra), a once-in-12-years event, is scheduled. A detailed discussion on the future of Uttarakhand’s tourism industry is not possible here but it is clear that it requires a radical overhaul. With the ineptness of the State government now fully exposed, new policies for the revival of tourism in Uttarakhand must follow an open debate.

Not a ‘freak’ incident

The impact of the floods on Uttarakhand’s tourism leads to larger questions of what kind of development Himalayan States should pursue. Before delving into that, it is important to understand the nature of the rainfall that deluged the State. Already several voices are arguing that the deluge is a random, ‘freak’ event. Odisha’s super cyclone in 1999, torrential rains in Mumbai in 2005, and now the Uttarakhand downpour constitute three clear weather related events in less than 15 years, each causing massive destruction or dislocation in India. These can hardly be called ‘freak’ events.

Several reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have repeatedly warned that extreme weather incidents will become more frequent with global warming. We are already riding the global warming curve. We will have to take into account the likelihood of more frequent extreme weather events when planning for development, especially in the fragile Himalayan region where crumbling mountains become murderous.

In the 1990s, when the demand for a separate State gained momentum, at conferences, meetings, workshops and seminars, Uttarakhandi people repeatedly described the special character of the region. Consciousness created by the pioneering Chipko Andolan raised the hopes of village women that their new State would pursue a green development path, where denuded slopes would be reforested, where fuel wood and fodder would be plentiful in their own village forests, where community ownership of these forests would provide their men with forest products-based employment near their villages instead of forcing them to migrate to the plains, where afforestation and watershed development would revive their dry springs and dying rain-fed rivers, and where the scourge of drunken, violent men would be overcome.

Year after year — in cities, towns and villages — they led demonstrations demanding a mountain state of their own. Theirs was a vision of development that would first enhance the human, social and natural capital of the State. Recalling the tremendous worldwide impact of the Chipko movement, Uttarakhandi women dreamed of setting yet another example for the world of what people-centric development could look like.

But in the 13 years after statehood, the leadership of the State has succumbed to the conventional model of development with its familiar and single-minded goal of creating monetary wealth. With utter disregard for the State’s mountain character and its delicate ecosystems, successive governments have blindly pushed roads, dams, tunnels, bridges and unsafe buildings even in the most fragile regions.

In the process, denuded mountains have remained deforested, roads designed to minimise expenditure rather than enhance safety have endangered human lives, tunnels blasted into mountainsides have further weakened the fragile slopes and dried up springs, ill-conceived hydropower projects have destroyed rivers and their ecosystems, and hotels and land developers have encroached on river banks.

Yes, wealth has been generated but the beneficiaries are very few — mainly in the towns and cities of the southern terai plains and valleys where production investments have concentrated. In the mountain villages, agricultural production has shrivelled, women still trudge the mountain slopes in search of fodder, fuel wood and water, and entire families wait longingly for an opportunity to escape to the plains.

Last week’s floods have sounded an alarm bell. To pursue development without concern for the fragile Himalayan environment is to invite disaster. Eco-sensitive development may mean a slower monetary growth rate but a more sustainable and equitable one.

(The writer is Director, People’s Science Institute, Dehra Dun and Member (Expert), National Ganga River Basin Authority)

In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst centered on the North Indian state Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides becoming the country's worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. The reason the floods occurred was that the rainfall received was on a larger scale than the regular rainfall the state usually received . The debris blocked up the rivers, causing major overflow. The main day of the flood is said to be on 16 June 2013. Though some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in India experienced the heavy rainfall, some regions of Western Nepal, and some parts of Western Tibet also experienced heavy rainfall, over 89% of the casualties occurred in Uttarakhand. As of 16 July 2013[update], according to figures provided by the Uttarakhand government, more than 5,700 people were "presumed dead."[2] This total included 934 local residents.[3]

Destruction of bridges and roads left about 100,000 pilgrims and tourists trapped in the valleys leading to three of the four HinduChota Char Dham pilgrimage sites.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] The Indian Air Force, the Indian Army, and paramilitary troops evacuated more than 110,000 people from the flood ravaged area.[5]

Origin[edit]

From 14 to 17 June 2013, the Indian state of Uttarakhand and adjoining areas received heavy rainfall, which was about 375% more than the benchmark rainfall during a normal monsoon.[11] This caused the melting of Chorabari Glacier at the height of 3800 metres, and eruption of the Mandakini River[12] which led to heavy floods near Gobindghat, Kedar Dome, Rudraprayag district, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal, and acute rainfall in other nearby regions of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Tibet.[13]

The upper Himalayan territories of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are full of forests and snow-covered mountains and thus remain relatively inaccessible. They are home to several major and historic Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage sites besides several tourist spots and trekking trails. Heavy rainfall for four consecutive days as well as melting snow aggravated the floods.[14] 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.

Landslides, due to the floods, damaged several houses and structures, killing those who were trapped.[4][14] The heavy rains resulted in large flashfloods and massive landslides.[13] Entire villages and settlements such as Gaurikund and the market town of Ram Bada, a transition point to Kedarnath, had been obliterated, while the market town of Sonprayag suffered heavy damage and loss of lives.[8][15] Pilgrimage centres in the region, including Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the hallowed Hindu Chardham (four sites) pilgrimage centers, are usually visited by thousands of devotees, especially after the month of July on wards. Over 70,000 people were stuck in various regions because of damaged or blocked roads.[14] People in other important locations like the Valley of flowers, Roopkund and the Sikh pilgrimage centre Hemkund were stranded for more than three days.[14]National Highway 58, an important artery connecting the region was also washed away near Jyotirmath and in many other places.[15] Because summers have more number of tourists, the number of people impacted is substantial.[16] For more than three days, stranded pilgrims and tourists were without rations or survived on little food.[17] The roads were seriously damaged at more than 450 places, resulting in huge traffic jams, and the floods caused many cars and other vehicles to be washed away.[14] On 18 June, more than 12,000 pilgrims were stranded at Badrinath, the popular pilgrimage center located on the banks of the Alaknanda River.[18][19][20] Rescuers at the Hindu pilgrimage town of Haridwar on the river Ganga recovered bodies of 40 victims washed down by the flooded rivers as of 21 June 2013.[21] Bodies of people washed away in Uttarakhand were found in distant places like Bijnor, Allahabad and Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh.[22] Searching for bodies who died during the extreme natural fury of June in Kedar valley continued for several months and even as late as September, 2013, about 556 bodies were found out of which 166 bodies were found in highly decomposed state during fourth round of search operations.[23]

Although the Kedarnath Temple itself was not damaged, its base was inundated with water, mud and boulders from the landslide, damaging its perimeter.[19] Many hotels, rest houses and shops around the temple in Kedarnath township 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. The temple was flooded with water resulting in several deaths due to drowning and panic-driven stampede.[24] Even after a week, dead bodies had not been removed from Kedarnath town, resulting in water contamination in the Kedarnath valley and villagers who depend on spring water suffered various types of health problems like fever, diarrhoea.[4][25] When the flood receded, satellite images showed one new stream at Kedarnath town. No damage at the Kedarnath Temple occurred. 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 or two, but the temple rituals will still be maintained by priests.[26][27][28] The Temple opened for pilgrims on Sunday, 4 May 2014. [29]

Other regions Affected by the disaster[edit]

National Capital Region[edit]

New Delhi, Gurgaon and surrounding areas received a high amount of rainfall on 16 June 2013, leading to flooding of the low-lying areas of the cities.[30] The Yamuna River swelled to a new height of 207.75 meters submerging the low lying flood plains along the banks.[31][32]

Uttar Pradesh[edit]

Six-hundred and eight villages, covering a population of 700,000, in 23 districts of Uttar Pradesh were affected by the flood and drought. As of 11 July 2013[update] more than 120 deaths were reported from the state.The number of people who went to Uttarakhand were maximum from Uttar Pradesh [33]

Himachal Pradesh[edit]

In Himachal Pradesh, floods caused loss of life and property and death toll in the state was 20.[34]

Nepal[edit]

About 6000 citizens of Nepal were visiting the Indian region, of which 1,000 were rescued as of 22 June 2013.[35] Flooding of the Dhauliganga and the Mahakali rivers had caused extensive damage, with reports of 128 houses and 13 government offices swept away and over 1000 people homeless.[36][37] A bridge that joins the India-Nepal border is highly damaged or destroyed.

Rescue operations[edit]

See also: Operation Rahat and Operation Surya Hope

The Army, Air Force, Navy, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Border Security Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Public Works Department and local administrations worked together for quick rescue operations.[13] Several thousand soldiers were deployed for the rescue missions.[38] Activists of political and social organisations were also involved in the rescue and management of relief centres.[39] The national highway and other important roads were closed to regular traffic.[14] Helicopters were used to rescue people, but due to the rough terrain, heavy fog and rainfall, manoeuvring them was a challenge.[40] By 21 June 2013, the Army had deployed 10,000 soldiers and 11 helicopters,[26][41] the Navy had sent 45 naval divers, and the Air force had deployed 43 aircraft including 36 helicopters.[42] From 17 to 30 June 2013, the IAF airlifted a total of 18,424 people - flying a total of 2,137 sorties and dropping/landing a total of 3,36,930 kg of relief material and equipments.[43]

On 25 June, one of 3 IAF Mil Mi-17 rescue helicopters returning from Kedarnath, carrying 5 Air Force Officers, 9 of the NDRF, and 6 of the ITBP crashed on a mountainous slope near Gauri Kund, killing all on board.[44][45] The deceased soldiers were given a ceremonial Guard of honour by Home minister of India, at a function organised by the Uttarakhand State Government.[46]

Indo Tibetan border Police (ITBP) a Force which guards the Indo China borders on the high himalayas with its 3 Regional Response Centres (RRCs) based at Matli (Uttarkashi), Gauchar (Chamoli) and Pithoragarh swung into action and started rescue and relief operation. 2000 strong ITBP force with its mountaineering skills and improvisation methods started rescue of stranded pilgrims. It was a simultaneous effort by ITBP at Kedar ghati, Gangotri valley and Govind ghat areas. According to official figures by ITBP, they were able to rescue 33,009 pilgrims in 15 days on their own from extreme remote and inaccessible areas.Before Army or Air Force called in, being deployed in the nearby areas, ITBP took the first call and saved many lives. They also distributed food packets to stranded pilgrims who were in a pathetic condition being not having any food for more than 72 hours at many places.

Aftermath[edit]

The Prime Minister of India undertook an aerial survey of the affected areas and announced₹10 billion (US$150 million) aid package for disaster relief efforts in the state.[47] Several state governments announced financial assistance, with Uttar Pradesh pledging ₹250 million (US$3.8 million),[48] the governments of Haryana,[49]Maharashtra[50] and Delhi₹100 million (US$1.5 million) each, the governments of Tamil Nadu,[51]Odisha,[52]Gujarat,[53]Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh₹50 million (US$770,000) each. The US Ambassador to India extended a financial help of USD $150,000 through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the NGOs working in the area.[54] and announced that the US will provide further financial aid of USD $75,000.[54]

The Government of India also cancelled 9 batches, or half the annual batches of the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra, a Hindu pilgrimage.[55] The Chardham Yatra pilgrimage, covering Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath was cancelled for 2 years to repair damaged roads and infrastructure, according to the Uttarakhand Government.[56]

Government agencies and priests of Kedarnath temple were planning mass cremation of the hundreds of victims, after one week of tragedy.[57][58] Local youths from several affected villages near Gangotri helped stranded tourists and pilgrims, by sending messages to their places and by providing food.[59] Rescuers also retrieved approximately ₹10 million (US$150,000) and other jewellery from local persons, including some people dressed like sadhu babas, who reportedly collected it from a destroyed building of a Bank and damaged shops.[60][61][62]

Climate and environmental factors[edit]

A study by Utah State University [63] analyzed the natural and anthropogenic influences on the climate anomalies using simulations, and found that (a) northern India has experienced increasingly large rainfall in June since the late 1980s, (b) the increase in rainfall appears to be associated with a tendency in the upper troposphere towards amplified short waves, and (c) the phasing of such amplified short waves is tied to increased loading of green-house gases and aerosols. In addition, a regional modeling diagnosis attributed 60–90 % of rainfall amounts in the June 2013 event to post-1980 climate trends.

Unprecedented destruction by the rainfall witnessed in Uttarakhand state was also attributed, by environmentalists, to unscientific developmental activities undertaken in recent decades contributing to high level of loss of property and lives. Roads constructed in haphazard style, new resorts and hotels built on fragile river banks and more than 70 hydroelectric projects in the watersheds of the state led to a "disaster waiting to happen" as termed by certain environmentalists.[64] The environmental experts reported that the tunnels built and blasts undertaken for the 70 hydro electric projects contributed to the ecological imbalance in the state, with flows of river water restricted and the streamside development activity contributing to a higher number of landslides and more flooding.[4][64]

In fiction[edit]

A novel titled A Long Journey was written and published by independent author Pawan Kumar Pandey, which has the floods and the resulting tragedy in its background.[65][66]

References[edit]

  1. ^ abKumar, Siddhartha (15 July 2013). "5,748 feared dead after India floods". IOL News. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  2. ^"India raises flood death toll to 5,700 as all missing persons now presumed dead". CBS News. 16 July 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  3. ^"India says 5,748 missing in floods now presumed dead", Fox News, 15 July 2013
  4. ^ abcdKala, C.P. (2014). "Deluge, tire disaster and development in Uttarakhand Himalayan region of India: Challenges and lessons for disaster management". International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 8: 143–152. doi:10.1016/j.ijdrr.2014.03.002. 
  5. ^ abUttarakhand: Army Commander walks with 500 people out of Badrinath | NDTV.com
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  12. ^Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand survives glacier, floods | Down To Earth Bot generated title -->
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  46. ^Bravehearts who died in Uttarakhand chopper crash given Guard of Honour | NDTV.com
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Kedarnath temple, before floods
Satellite image of the affected region, taken on 30 May by NASA's MODIS.
Same location, shot on 21 June during the height of the floods

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