Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Disasters at Himalayan Region (Uttarakhand)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Land Subsidence

Mains level: Reasons for disasters at Himalaya



  • Disasters have become commonplace in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the most recent one being the sinking of Joshimath. Although climate change has triggered these events, the most important underlying factors are poor planning and a lack of vision.

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Recent disasters on Himalaya

  • Kedarnath floods: Nature has given enough warnings of the dangers in the Himalayas. The 2013 Kedarnath floods took more than 5,000 lives, according to official records.
  • Nepal earthquake: The 2015 Gurkha Earthquake in Nepal killed as many as 8000 individuals.
  • Floods in Pakistan: The recent floods in Pakistan left millions of people homeless and devastated.
  • Sinking of Joshimath: The ‘Joshimath sinking’ phenomenon has received national and global attention. However, other cities and towns across Uttarakhand are also on the brink of collapse. Joshimath is the first one to succumb to human pressures, thankfully without causing any damage to human lives.

Reasons for disasters at Himalaya (Uttarakhand)

  • Construction in Prohibited areas: The geological fragility of Uttarakhand is part of scientific and popular knowledge. Government policies and bylaws prohibit people from constructing houses on vulnerable slopes.
  • Mindless decision making: With increasing access to internet facilities, almost everyone can find information. Yet one is compelled to ask about the role technological advancement and information abundance have played in environmental decision-making as mindless construction over vulnerable slopes continues uninhibited.
  • Ignorance by bureaucrats: The technicalities of science and academic jargon are complex for bureaucrats to understand and laypersons and bureaucratic mindsets only engage with the research community for obligatory and cosmetic purposes.

Infrastructure of mountainous area and plain area

  • Normal construction methods for fragile ecology: We have continued to borrow practices from elsewhere for implementation on the delicate eco-geological systems of the Himalayas.
  • Gurugramisation of Uttarakhand: Gurugram’s infrastructure development took a toll on Gurugram itself. For the Himalayas, Gurugram-style development is enormously devastating. The “Gurugramisation” of Uttarakhand needs to stop.
  • Disregards to laws and regulations: The divide between science–policy, and people, has promoted disconnected decision-making and encouraged individuals to casually flout bylaws and regulatory policies. A common Uttarakhandi is forced to live a life full of uncertainty and fear.

Case study of Nainital

  • Vulnerable to landslides: Nainital, one of the most vulnerable cities in the entire Himalayan region. The Nainital lake is situated over an active Faultline and surrounded by slopes vulnerable to landslides.
  • Earthquake prone area: It falls under a high earthquake-prone zone (Zone IV). Since its settlement in 1841 small and big landslides continue to threaten the city. The most devastating of them was the 1880 landslide that took 151 human lives.
  • Construction on vulnerable slopes: Despite having robust scientific evidence, building bylaws, and an aware citizenry, the brutal assaults on the biophysical environment of the city are ongoing. The slope that collapsed in 1880 (less than a fraction of a second earlier on a geological time scale) is now inhabited by more than 15,000 individuals.
  • Ground water exploitation: In 2017, the Nainital lake level plummeted 18 feet due to the excessive withdrawal of water from the lake bed to meet local and unprecedented tourism needs. Such a decline was never experienced in the past.
  • Mindless tourism activities: The biggest threat to Nainital is the crumbling “Balianala”. To make matters worse, construction work over the most important recharge area of the Nainital lake “Sukhatal” is underway. The intention is to enhance tourism-related activity. But the question is, does a city that receives more than 10,000 tourists and 2,000 vehicles on a daily basis in the summer months and weekends need more tourism?



  • The carrying capacity of the cities in Himalayas has been exhausted. The natural infrastructure is fatigued and dangers of a possible collapse are visible to the human eye. Government must the amend and implement the construction laws and regulations for sustainability of Himalayas.

Mains Question

Q. What are the reasons for recent sinking in Joshi math? Illustrate the vulnerability of Himalayas using the case study.

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