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Cloudburst incidents in Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh impacting life of indigenous communities

In the year 2023, several regions of India, including Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and Ladakh experienced a series of cloudburst incidents

By Ground report
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Cloudburst incidents in Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh impacting life of indigenous communities

In the year 2023, several regions of India, including Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and Ladakh experienced a series of cloudburst incidents, causing widespread damage to life and property. The indigenous communities living in these regions, especially the nomadic tribals, have been severely affected by the natural calamities.

According to media reports, there have been several cloudburst incidents in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. In one such incident, a cloudburst hit Kishtwar’s Honzar village in the upper reaches of the Jammu region, killing seven people and injuring five others.

J&K reported 12 cloudburst incidents in the month of July alone. These incidents occurred amid frequent wet spells in the region, which has received excess rainfall of 27 percent from June 1, 2023, to July 19, 2023. The Meteorological department (MeT) is currently preparing data to determine whether these incidents have witnessed an upward trend.

Cloudburst in Sonamarg. Photo Credit: X/@RoufBhat_

The cloudburst incidents led to flash floods in several areas, causing damage to roads and some walls of government-run schools in Kulgam, and minor damage to the roads in Zirhama village in Kupwara.

Jammu and Kashmir Flash Flood Incidents -2023

May 2023

  1. Kokernag (May 2): Asia’s largest trout fish farm, the Kokernag fish farm, suffered heavy losses after a cloudburst in the Bindoo Zalangam forest area. The Mughal Garden and Trout Fish Farming Project were affected.
  2. Kulgam (May 3): A cloudburst triggered flash floods in Lammar Hallan, leading to the submersion of a local school. Evacuations were carried out, and no casualties were reported.
  3. Pulwama (May 6): A cloudburst in Bujbagh, Pampore, resulted in the death of a couple, Hilal Ahmed Hanji and Rozia Jan. Separately, two persons died due to lightning in Mujpathri, Budgam.
Cloudburst in Brari Aangan pastures of Tral in South Kashmir kills 100 sheep in highland pastures. Photo Credit: X/@islahmufti

July 2023

  1. Kulgam (July 7): A cloudburst incident was reported in Kulgam district, resulting in one death. However, no specific details were provided.
  2. Kupwara (July 19): Flash floods caused significant damage to Jumagund road in Zurhama due to a cloudburst in Gujjar Pati Zurhama. About 40 water pipes were washed away, affecting over 10,000 people.
  3. Srinagar (July 22): A cloudburst hit the Faqir Gujri neighborhood, causing widespread damage to roads, water and power supply lines, and homes.
  4. Kulgam (July 22): Cloudbursts created panic in several villages, including Damhal Hanjipora, with water entering residential houses, apple orchards, and causing damage to infrastructure.
  5. Doda (July 22): A powerful cloudburst in Kota Nullah washed away a stretch of Thaleela – Chirala link road, creating a flood-like situation. Flash floods were also reported in Bangla Nallah in Chirala Tehsil.
  6. Kupwara (July 23): A woman died in flash floods triggered by multiple cloudbursts in the Lolab area. Cloudbursts caused large-scale damage to standing crops, roads, and infrastructure.
  7. Doda (July 28): A massive flash flood triggered by a cloudburst washed away a footbridge in Kaljugasar village, cutting off several villages.
  8. Ganderbal (July 28): A cloudburst in Gujar Pati Prang area of Kangan caused flash floods, damaging seven residential houses, a mosque, two government schools, and agricultural and horticultural fields.
  9. Srinagar (July 31): Acute water shortages were reported in several downtown areas, including Zakura, Soura, Anchar, Nawa Kadal, and Umerabad, following a cloudburst in Ganderbal village.

Ladakh Flash Flood Incidents - July 2023

  1. Leh (July 9): A 450-year-old building in the Kharyouk area of Leh city collapsed due to incessant rainfall. Leh recorded 14.5 mm of rainfall in 9 hours, leading to flash floods and waterlogging. Locals mentioned that while there was a cloud burst in 2010, the damage was not as extensive as this time.
Police rescue operation is underway in Hunzer area of Dachhan in Kishtwar district following cloudburst.
  • Leh & Kargil (July 21): Massive damage occurred to roads in upper Leh due to flash floods, leading to water inundation in the main market of Leh town and nearby areas. Flash floods in Kargil district affected several areas of Drass, Chikthan, and Sankoo, causing damage to roads, houses, and farms.
  • Leh (July 22): A cloudburst triggered flash floods in Leh town, causing extensive damage. Over a dozen houses and shops suffered partial damage, and the main market place was waterlogged. Flash floods brought muck and boulders to the markets and residential areas.

Impact on Indigenous Communities

The Gujjar and Bakerwal communities are the largest nomadic tribals in Jammu and Kashmir, who migrate to the upper reaches of the Himalayas during the summer months for grazing their livestock. They live in temporary shelters made of mud and wood, which are vulnerable to natural disasters.

According to a report by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, the nomadic tribals have faced several hardships due to the changing climate and the frequent occurrence of cloudbursts, landslides and flash floods in the region.

The cloudbursts and flash floods have exposed the vulnerability of the indigenous communities living in the Himalayan regions, who depend on the natural resources for their survival. The government and the civil society need to take urgent steps to provide relief and rehabilitation to the affected people, and to ensure their long-term security and resilience.

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