Analysis of Uttarakhand Floods as to what are the reasons why it happened
Flash floods warnings unheeded: Geologists
Geologists had repeatedly warned that sedimentary rock structure of the Himalayas comprising shale and siltstone is extremely pliable and construction of structures close to the rivers is a precursor for disaster
Several Himalayan geologists have repeatedly expressed apprehension against the massive road and dam-building construction activity taking place in Uttarakhand which had resulted in the hillsides “crumbling.
States oppose Model Flood Bill
Even as floods play havoc in Uttarakhand, several states have opposed the provisions of a 38-year-old Model Flood Bill ...view middle of the document...
The heavy machines plying everyday on the kutcha roads have weakened it, and hence landslides occur more often.
Lack of Technology & Communication:
The state of Andhra Pradesh has placed rainfall gauges at a distance of every 10 kilometres. No other state has this and it is for this reason that we were able to evacuate 5.5 lakh people when the Krishna river was in spate in 2007.
But Uttarakhand is hilly terrain. The lack of Doppler radar in the higher reaches was one of the main reasons why the local authorities failed to alert the citizens or the incoming tourists.
Another critical area is that of communication - both between government agencies and between citizens themselves. Mobile communication towers at Kedarnath survived the devastation wreaked by the flash floods. These, however, went out of the grid when the power supply was cut off and generation sets ran out of fuel, putting the area out of communication. Availability of cellular communication would have aided in need assessment, relief and rescue and coordination of the air effort and provided much needed psychological boost to the survivors. This is another grey area in the disaster management framework as there are no guidelines issued by the Department of Communications for telecom companies for disaster-proofing their infrastructure and taking measures for early restoration of the communications network.
Roads destabilising mountains
Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, two hill states in the Himalayan range, are so far the worst hit by the extreme rains that struck northern India in the wake of monsoons that set in early this year.. Heavy rainfall has wreaked havoc on the region because of the fragile nature of the Himalayan range and poor soil stability in its steep slopes
The valleys of the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Alaknanda witness heavy traffic of tourists. For this, the government has to construct new roads and widen the existing ones. Data with the Uttarakhand State Transport Department confirms this. In 2005-06, 83,000-odd vehicles were registered in the state. The figure rose to nearly 180,000 in 2012-13. Out of this, proportion of cars, jeeps and taxis, which are the most preferred means of transport for tourists landing in the state, increased the most. In 2005-06, 4,000 such vehicles were registered, which jumped to 40,000 in 2012-13. It is an established fact that there is a straight co-relation between tourism increase and higher incidence of landslides.
Threat from dams
The Ganga in the upper reaches has been an engineer’s playground. The Central Electricity Authority and the Uttarakhand power department have estimated the river’s hydroelectric potential at some 9,000 MW and have planned 70-odd projects on its tributaries. In building these projects the key tributaries would be modified—through diversion to tunnels or reservoirs—to such an extent that 80 per cent of the Bhagirathi and 65 per cent of the Alaknanda could be “affected”. As much as 90...