‘It is Gaad, as per the Garhwali dialect, not a Tsunami in Uttarakhand’
HYDERABAD: Let me first explain the word Gaad. It is from Garhwali dialect spoken in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. I heard this word when I was about 10-12 years old. We used to play volleyball at the bank of river Pinder, a tributary of Alaknanda, called bagad, another Garhwali word meaning plane area.
After playing volleyball with my friends we used to go to our village which was situated at a highly elevated area after an hour’s walk through pagdandi (tracking in mountains). On the way, we used to cross few gadhara, mountain streams.
The first such stream was about 700 metres from volleyball ground. One day as we were about to cross the first stream, a pujari of a nearby temple shouted at us and asked us to cross it quickly, warning about an impending Gaad, a sudden flood.
There was no rain while we were playing nor at the time of crossing the stream. But as soon as we crossed the stream and climbed about 40 steps to reach the temple in about 7-8 minutes we saw that the stream swelled bringing lot of stones, uprooting trees, mud etc.
We asked pujari about his forecast and he told that there was rain and thunderstorm upstream. He did not use the word cloudburst.
However, the pujari was aware that this stream originates from a valley surrounded by mountains on both sides, a place where cloud is locked, which results in sudden burst of rain.
The pujari allowed us to leave for our village although we had to cross two more streams.
So, every gadhhra (stream) does not get Gaad (flood). Parents generally ask the children while going to school by crossing the stream to be careful about Gaad.
I learnt about cloudburst when I was a student doing masters degree in Geophysics. Our teacher late Professor Jagdeo Singh, Ph. D. from United Kingdom, taught us basics of Meteorology, different types of clouds, cloudburst, Indian Monsoon etc.
The arrival time of monsoon in Uttarakhand according to my teacher was around July first week. We saw the same routine every year with some variation. However, this June some thing unusual happened and the monsoon reached Uttarakhand in middle of June.
One explanation could be from a point of view of my teacher. What would have happened was that the monsoon took a turn on its journey towards west somewhere halfway and mixed up with heavy cloud coming from Bay of Bengal.
The heavy dense cloud reached Uttarakhand in second week of June because of this turn. So, we got less rainfall in the east such as in Bihar and western Uttar Pradesh. Now, the question is why it took a turn?
Perhaps, the reason could be unusual high temperature in north-west India during this summer. The monsoon preferred lighter air which was in the west as compared in the east.
So, the monsoon clouds which are usually uniformly distributed in its route reached Uttarakhand with heavy load and made a disastrous impact in the region.
Another question what makes warmer in Uttarakhand can be seen in light of melting of Himalayan glacier.
There were a few buildings with slanting roof around Kedarnath temple and nobody used to stay at night at Kedarnath till a few years ago, except pujaris in summer.
In conclusion, I would like to state that although cloudbursts are common in Uttarakhand, there were indications that monsoon had changed its course and moved towards that region due to changes in temperature and climate.
Balance was not maintained between development (eg; road widening by cutting trees) and protecting environment.
(V.P. Dimri hails from Uttarakhand and is former Director, National Geophysical Research Institute)