From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Floods in Uttarakhand and its mitigation
The article explains the relationship between development activities in Uttarakhand and the devastating floods.
Cause of recent flash flood in Uttarakhand
- According to Planet Labs, ice along with frozen mud and rocks fell down from a high mountain inside the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, from a height of 5,600 m to 3,300 m.
- This created an artificial lake within the sanctuary in Rontigad, a tributary of Rishi Ganga.
- Within eight hours, this lake burst open and its water, laden with mud and stones, rushed through the Rishi Ganga gorge which opens near Reni.
- Studies say that the current winter season has seen little rain and snow, with temperatures being highest in the last six decades.
- So, the effects of chemical weathering were much more active in the higher Himalayas.
- There is a possibility of more such events this year.
1) Development with no regard for the environment
- As a mountain system, the Himalayas have had earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, soil erosion, forest fires and floods, and these are its natural expressions, parts of its being.
- Except for earthquakes, humans have directly contributed towards aggravating all the other phenomena.
- The Ravi Chopra committee formed by the SC recommended closure of all the 24 hydro projects in question by Wildlife Institute of India.
- The SC also formed another committee to look at the impact of the Chaardham road project.
- Road and hydro projects are being operated in the Himalayas with practically no rigorous research on the ecological history of the area, cost-benefit analysis and many other aspects including displacement of communities, destruction of biodiversity, agricultural land, pastures as well as the cultural heritage of the area.
Dilution of Environmental Impact Assessment rules
- Earlier, while independent experts carried out the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), today it is assigned to a government agency, which does the work for other government departments.
- Furthermore, during the lockdown, the government changed the EIA rules and diluted labour laws (most of the workers in both the affected projects belong to unorganised sector) in the name of pandemic measures.
2) Climate change
- Another factor which cannot be overlooked is that of climate change.
- Studies have suggested that the pace of this change is faster in mountains and fastest in the Himalayas.
- While earthquakes and weathering work at their own pace, climate change can contribute towards altering their natural speed.
Need for studying the 2013 calamity
- We can look back at the terrible calamity of 2013, and see how it washed away the encroachments in river areas-dams, barrages, tunnels, buildings, roads.
- The communities paid a much heavier price than what they received in compensation.
- Further, the 2013 calamity has to be studied and understood in all the other regions and river valleys of Uttarakhand, Western Nepal and Himachal.
- It was not specific to Kedarnath, although much of the focus was directed there.
- Till date, we don’t have any white paper on this calamity.
- The India Meteorological Department failed in its prediction and wrongly announced at the end of the first week of June that the monsoon will reach Uttarakhand by June 27-28.
- It reached on June 16-17 with 300-400 per cent more rain, a record never heard of before.
- 24 big and small hydro projects were destroyed.
- The muck created by these projects was also the cause of their destruction.
- The road debris, always dumped in rivers, was another cause.
- The smaller rivers were more aggressive in 2013.
Consider the question “What are the factors responsible for the devastating floods in the Uttarakhand? Suggest the measures for disaster mitigation.”
The Himalayas have been giving us life through water, fertile soil, biodiversity, wilderness and a feel of spirituality. We cannot and should not try to control or dictate the Himalayas.