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Lessons that can be learned from Chamoli, Uttarakhand flash flood

Uttarakhand

On February 7, the chamoli district in Uttarakhand was hit by flash floods which devastated the area. The floods were reportedly caused due to glacial outburst in Dhauli Ganga. Scientists have been debating the exact cause of the devastation like climate change and construction of dams. Assumptions have been made that such kinds of disaster will become more frequent in future. 

The river which is usually clear in winter had a muddied appearance even on Friday due to suspended sand, clay and rocks in the water. The disaster engulfed 58 lives and 179 are still missing. The rescue operations are underway at the Tapovan Tunnel.

The construction of dams has done unsustainable damage to the state. The state has become vulnerable to the climate crisis over the years. 

Here are the lessons that the state must learn from this disaster

Uttarakhand has encountered one of the highest increase in temperature this decade

A report assessing the impact of the climate crisis over the Indian region published by the ministry of earth sciences last year said the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region has experienced a temperature rise of about 1.3 degrees Celsius from 1951 to 2014. 

India Meteorological Department (IMD) showed that almost all of Uttarakhand, and Chamoli in particular, has experienced the highest increase in both minimum and maximum temperatures and is likely to continue further. 

This change in temperature increased the speed of glaciers melting in the region which ultimately increases the chances of flash floods.


Uttarakhand have also seen the highest increase in the intensity rainfall

It is not just the rise in temperature that makes Uttarakhand vulnerable to floods. IMD’s gridded rainfall data set also shows that heavy and extreme precipitation -greater than 35.5 mm of rainfall in a day in a grid or box bound by two latitudes and longitudes of 0.25° each, has increased in the state, particularly in the higher regions of the state, including Chamoli.


Dams in the state don’t account for the unique environment of the state

Hydropower projects are one of the cleanest forms of energy, as far as carbon dioxide emissions are concerned. Using them as a source of energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. Still, developers of such projects in Uttarakhand need to take into account the unique environment of the state. policy makers should be extremely cautious about developing hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. This is because Himalayan rivers, being younger, carry many boulders and debris along in the event of a flood. “They are fed by glaciers from which debris flows into the rivers. Big boulders with sand and other debris often get mobilised and hydropower projects create an artificial obstruction in the flow of this material. When these boulders and sand are not able to flow freely, they also form dams holding water behind them. When hydrostatic pressure builds, these dams break and they cause floods.

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Ravisha Poddar
the authorRavisha Poddar
Writer

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