Uttarakhand glacier burst

Troubled mountains: On Uttarakhand glacier disaster

The staggering collapse of part of a glacier in Uttarakhand’s Nanda Devi mountain and the ensuing floods that have claimed many lives come as a deadly reminder that this fragile, geologically dynamic region can never be taken for granted. A significant slice of the glacier, dislodged by a landslide, according to some satellite images, produced roaring torrents in the Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers in Chamoli district, trapping unsuspecting workers at two hydro power project sites. Scores of people are still missing in the wave of water, silt and debris that swamped the rivers and filled tunnels in the Tapovan power project, although the immediate rescue of nearly 15 people by the ITBP, the Army and other agencies brings some cheer. The rescuers face a challenging environment as they try to locate more survivors and bring relief supplies to paralysed communities. These immediate measures are important, along with speedy compensation to affected families. But the Centre and the Uttarakhand government cannot ignore the larger context of the State’s increasing frailty in the face of environmental shocks. Once the crucible of environmentalism, epitomised by Sunderlal Bahuguna, Gaura Devi and the Chipko movement, the State’s deep gorges and canyons have attracted many hydroelectric projects and dams, with little concern for earthquake risk. Red flags have been raised repeatedly, particularly after the moderate quake in 1991 in the region where the Tehri dam was built and the 2013 floods that devastated Kedarnath, pointing to the threat from seismicity, dam-induced microseismicity, landslides and floods from a variety of causes, including unstable glacial lakes and climate change.

India is heavily invested in dam development and growth of hydropower, largely in the Himalaya region — especially to cut carbon emissions. By one estimate, if the national plan to construct dams in 28 river valleys in the hills is realised in a few decades, the Indian Himalayas will have one dam for every 32 km, among the world’s highest densities. Yet, as researchers say, this may be a miscalculation for reasons, including potential earthquake impacts, monsoonal aberrations that could repeat a Kedarnath-like flood, severe biodiversity loss and, importantly, extreme danger to communities downstream. There is also some evidence that the life of dams is often exaggerated, and siltation, which reduces it, is grossly underestimated: in the Bhakra dam in Himachal Pradesh, for instance, siltation was higher by 140% than calculated. The need is to rigorously study the impact of policy on the Himalayas and confine hydro projects to those with the least impact, while relying more on low impact run-of-the-river power projects that need no destructive large dams and reservoirs. Unlike what the NITI Aayog seems to think of environmental accounting, this would be a sound approach.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 9:02:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/troubled-mountains-on-uttarakhand-glacier-disaster/article33785774.ece

In This Package
Uttarakhand glacier disaster: Death certificates may be issued for missing persons
Efforts continue: A new machine brought to Tapovan tunnel to carry out further drilling, at Joshimath on February 13, 2021.
Uttarakhand disaster | Police perform last rites of unidentified bodies in Chamoli
Uttarakhand disaster | 64 from Uttar Pradesh still missing
The Hindu Explains | Why are geologists worried about a slew of hydroelectric projects and environmental stress in Uttarakhand?
Uttarakhand flood disaster | Relief operation continues in Chamoli
Scientists uncertain about impact of budding pool in Uttarakhand flood zone
In Pictures | The aftermath of Uttarakhand glacier disaster
The agonising cost of ham-handed development
A resilient future for Uttarakhand
Data | Over 50,000 hectares of forest land in Uttarakhand diverted for various projects in last 30 years
You are reading Troubled mountains: On Uttarakhand glacier disaster
Uttarakhand floods: Amit Shah speaks to CM, assures help
Tracing the Ganga's intricate waterweb
Dams and damages
Glacier burst: IMD says no adverse weather over affected areas on Feb 7, 8
Armed forces move in to provide assistance in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand glacier burst brings back memory of 2013 flash floods
Uttarakhand flood: 2019 study warned Himalayan glaciers melting at alarming speed
Uttarakhand glacier burst | Experts point to climate change impact
Uttarakhand glacier burst | Dhauliganga’s water level at Joshimath breaches records, say Central Water Commission
Uttarakhand glacier burst | Tapovan hydel project entirely washed away, says ITBP Officer
7 killed after ‘glacial burst’ in Uttarakhand
Uma Bharati recalls her warning on Uttarakhand hydel projects
Uttarakhand glacier burst: Death toll up to 26, rescue operation on in Chamoli
Explained: How glaciers, glacial lakes form and why they break
Uttarakhand glacier disaster | Avalanche damages a part of under-construction hydro plant in Tapovan: NTPC
Uttarakhand glacier disaster | ISRO, DRDO trying to ascertain exact cause, says CM
Story of the man in the viral Uttarakhand rescue photo
13 of 486 Uttarakhand glacial lakes vulnerable: GSI
Engineer from Kashmir among those missing in Uttarakhand
Landslip, not glacial lake burst, probable trigger for Uttarakhand flood
Projects above an elevation of 2,200 metres recipe for disaster, say experts
Uttarakhand glacier disaster: A phone call that saved a dozen lives
Efforts on to find 35 labourers trapped in Uttarakhand tunnel
197 still missing as Uttarakhand avalanche toll touches 32
Floodlights are lit around the Tapovan tunnel area where rescuers are searching for trapped workers on February 9, 2021.
Uttarakhand flood | 71 from U.P. remain untraced
Uttarakhand flood | Families await reunion with loved ones trapped in tunnel
Next Story