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Monsoon disasters increased in Uttarakhand in last four years, claim 213 lives

Uttarakhand is known for its breathtaking Himalayan landscapes and sacred rivers. However, this natural beauty comes with a high

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
Monsoon disasters increased in Uttarakhand in last four years, claim 213 lives

Uttarakhand is known for its breathtaking Himalayan landscapes and sacred rivers. However, this natural beauty comes with a high risk of geo-hydrological disasters. A comprehensive study spanning from 2020 to 2023 has shed light on the devastating impact of such calamities in the region.

The study findings reveal a grim picture: incidents claimed 213 lives, affected 5,275 individuals, caused 553 animals to perish, destroyed 301 homes, impacted 68 villages, caused 40 bridges to collapse, and damaged an alarming 4,990 meters of roadways.

The study revealed that cloudburst-induced flash floods and debris flows severely impacted the Bandal and Song River valleys in Uttarakhand. Concurrently, researchers conducted a detailed household survey to assess the extensive damage in three villages of the Bandal Valley.

A recent study in the ‘Natural Hazards’ journal by Springer highlights that districts like Dehradun, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, and Pithoragarh are particularly at risk for events such as landslides, flash floods, cloud bursts, debris flows, and rockslides, along with waterfalls, extreme weather conditions, and land submersion.

The analysis of disaster-related data from 2020 to 2023, particularly during the monsoon months of July, August, and September, revealed a total of 183 incidents. The year 2022 saw the most incidents, succeeded by 2023, 2020, and 2021. Landslides constituted 34.4% of these incidents, flash floods accounted for 26.5%, and cloudbursts made up 14%.

Cloudbursts and glacier bursts often set off these disasters, making the Himalayan region in Uttarakhand especially vulnerable. These incidents are most common during the monsoon season and have been particularly active between 2020 and 2023.

Monsoon disasters

The study in question investigated these geo-hydrological disasters, with a focus on their occurrence during the monsoon months. It also evaluated the extent of the disasters and identified the areas most at risk.

The researchers gathered data using both qualitative and quantitative methods and collected information from the State Disaster Management Department in Dehradun, media reports, and field visits. They conducted a detailed study of the Bandal and Song River valleys, which cloudburst-induced flash floods and debris flows heavily impacted.

Researchers carried out a survey at the household level in three villages of the Bandal Valley to assess the damage caused by these events. They then analyzed and used the collected data to categorize the Himalayan region into zones based on disaster hotspots and frequency. They employed tools like ArcGIS, Google Earth imagery, and Sentinel 1-SAR imagery to create the maps.

The study suggests prohibiting the construction of residential areas, infrastructure, and economic activities in regions that are most affected by disasters, particularly along river valleys and on unstable slopes. It also recommends eco-disaster risk reduction measures, such as forest and wetland conservation and reforestation efforts on riverbanks and vulnerable slopes, to help communities better prepare for and mitigate the effects of disasters.

Uttarakhand, geo-hydro disasters

In Uttarakhand, several regions have been affected by geo-hydrological disasters. Notably, earlier this year, the town of Joshimath in Chamoli district made headlines due to significant land subsidence, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate.

The research indicates that geo-hydrological disasters are increasingly common in Uttarakhand’s Himalayan region, with a notable uptick in activity during the monsoon season.

Last month, the collapse of the Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarkashi district drew widespread attention. Additionally, Pithoragarh district has been experiencing regular landslides, with a marked increase during the monsoon season.

Referencing the study, Mizoram University’s researcher and professor Vishwambhar Prasad Sati conducted an analysis of geohydrological hazards that occurred from 2020 to 2023. This included an empirical examination of the disaster’s effects on both the Bandal Basin and the Song River Basin in Uttarakhand.

The study conducted a thorough analysis and mapping of the Uttarakhand Himalayas, categorizing the region according to areas prone to frequent natural disasters and specific disaster hotspots.

The researcher mentioned that they utilized ArcGIS software for the creation of the maps and incorporated imagery from Google Earth and Sentinel 1-SAR satellite data.

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