It is the second in recent times that the Himalayan region saw floods in large scale. The first one was the 2013 cloudburst in Kedarnath that almost killed 5,000 people. Now, another flood (reason yet to ascertain) has struck Uttarakhand.
As per official records, 26 people died and about 175 missing in the disaster that struck Chamoli District till the time of filing of the story. The reports said that rescue operations are still going on.
CAUSE OF DISASTER
The scientists and experts are yet to determine the cause of the disaster. However, environmentalists and several others point out to the disregard for the environment. An avalanche occurred in the upper catchment of Rishiganga River, a tributary of Alaknanda River in Chamoli, which led to sudden rise in the water level of Rishiganga River. The floodwaters washed away Rishiganga small hydro project and affected the under construction 520 MW NTPC Hydro Power Project downstream at Tapovan on the river Dhauli Ganga.
Uttarakhand in the recent times after 2002 saw a high-density destruction of environment and several unfriendly infrastructure constructions. The state, which already has about 98 hydro projects, had signed agreements to build about 350 dams since 2009.
Most recently, the Rs 1200 crore Char Dham project has shattered the whole landscape of the Himalayan region, according to environmentalists. Environmentalists and experts pointed out that the Char Dham project, connecting the religious places of Yamunotri. Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath and Tanakpur-Pithoragarh violated all norms. The widening of the hill roads, disregarding the environment and the hill cutting had shattered the geography of the region, they noted.
VIOLATION OF ENVIRONMENT POLICY
They noted that the Char Dham project violated the National Environment Policy of 2000, which has come up with several measures to conserve mountain ecosystems. The Policy underlined appropriate land use planning, farming methods, watershed management promotion of eco-friendly and sustainable tourism. It also advocated “best practice” norms for construction of infrastructure in mountain regions.
CHAR DHAM AND UNFRIENDLY WORKS
Though the road is promoted as an all-weather and the fastest means to visit all the important religious places, it violated all environmental aspects. Constructed by the Ministry of Road Transports and Highways, the works include widening of about 900 km of highways connecting the four religious places. The government is for transforming the existing narrow road into an eight-metre wide highway. However, the environmentalist had pointed out much earlier that all the unfriendly environmental works in the Himalayan region would unleash turmoil on the Himalayan ecosystems. Moreover, the project has not cleared Environmental Impact Assessment
The environmentalists noted that hill cutting was rampant, which could have irreversible harmful effects on the mountain ecosystems. However, the Government denied the allegations.
Known as the third Pole”, the Himalayan region holds the largest volume of ice and snow outside the Polar Regions. The Mountain is also source of several of the major rivers in Asia. It also has great impact on the climate of the region.
A panel set up by the Supreme Court to look into the environmental aspects of the project noted that excavations were being done in an unscientific way. They pointed out that the project in Uttarakhand destabilised the whole region. The experts said that the construction took place in disregard of the geology. The panel experts note that unscientific excavation created at least a hundred new landslide zones. They noted that more than 50,000 trees were cut, leading to slope failures. The dumping of debris also had irreparable impact on the forests, valleys and villages. The rivers and water bodies got polluted and even choked.