Increasing human activities are augmenting the risk of natural disasters in the ecologically sensitive region of Kedarnath which was washed away by floods triggered by cloudburst in June, a latest study claims.
A team of scientists from the prestigious Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology has warned that rise in human activities around the area like pilgrimage and tourism would increase the risk of such disasters occurring in future.
Kedarnath is encircled by channels of Mandakini and Saraswati rivers which meet near the town.
The study led by scientist D.P. Dobhal, well—known for his work on Himalayan glaciers, says overcrowding of people and constructions have obstructed the natural flow of Saraswati river which now flows just behind Kedarnath town.
Similarly on down—stream near Rambara and Gaurikund, houses were constructed on loose soil making them prone to natural disasters and landslides, it said.
Mr. Dobhal, who has been named in the Time magazine list of ’Heroes of Himalayas’ in 2007, said heavy rains on June 16 evening flooded the catchment area of Saraswati and Dudh Ganga resulting in overflowing of channels which triggered erosion and subsequent silting up in the rivers.
This resulted in huge volumes of water along with loose soil and debris from glacial moraines forming a slush which moved with unprecedented energy towards Kedarnath town and washed off its upper parts where Sankaracharya samadhi, Jal Nigam guest house and Bharat Seva Sangh Ashram are located.
“While reconstruction efforts are going on in the region, government must ensure that construction should take place away from the temple at a safe location. Strict environment guidelines should be followed and a database of pilgrims climbing towards temple should be maintained to avoid such mis—happenings,” Mr. Dobhal told PTI.
The study, co—authored by Anil Gupta, Manish Mehta and D.D. Khandelwal, says another factor was the collapse of Chorabari Lake because of the torrential rains on June 17 which contributed to the floods and washed away regions like Gaurikund, Sonprayag and Phata.
The findings, published in the latest edition of ‘Current Science’, say that the collapse of the lake resulted from heavy downpour between June 15 and 17.
Heavy rains caused the snow—covered right basin of the Chorabari glacier to melt rapidly which resulted in the accumulation of water in Gandhi Sarovar, it said.
The increase in the water levels and with no outlet, the lake was breached causing floods in the lower regions of Kedarnath.
The area faced maximum brunt of the floods and landslides but the eighth century temple and the sanctum sanctorum, however, are safe.
Prayers at the shrine had come to a halt after the floods which caused massive damage to life and property especially in Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh districts.
Though prayers will start at the shrine from September 11, the Char dham yatra will not be resumed before September 30, which is the deadline set by the state government for road restoration work in Kedar ghati, an onerous task considering vagaries of the weather.
The torrential rains and subsequent floods in Garhwal region on June 16 had claimed 560 lives and left thousands missing.
Keywords: Kedarnath restoration works, Uttarakhand floods, flash floods, landslips, Kedarnath landslides, Himalayan ecosystem, Char Dham yatra, disaster management, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Rudraprayag, Himalayan rivers, National Disaster Relief Force, Gaurikund, Hemkund Sahib, Uttarakhand pilgrimage