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Uttarakhand Landslides and Flood: a Man Made Crisis

Jul 1, 2013 17:30 IST

The Himalayan State of India, Uttarakhand on 16 June 2013 faced one of the toughest situations of the century in form of a natural disaster with landslides and flash floods. Landslides are one of the major forms of natural disaster in the Himalayan ecosystem as it lies in Seismic Zone 5 (the area that is most prone to Earthquake in India).

This landslide and flashflood in the state have been termed as a manmade disaster by several environmentalists and the region behind the blame is speed of mining activity and construction of roads and hydropower projects in the area, which is not supported by the kind of biodiversity of the region.

The recent natural calamity in Uttarakhand took lives of thousands as per official and recorded data, but as per the survivors of the crisis, the story is completely different with more than ten thousands dead.

Rescue operations (Operation Surya Hope) is in process to save the survivors of the disaster. The Indian Air Force, Army, ITBP personnel are engaged day and night to help the people struck in the Himalayan state.

Whereas, when seen from the perspective of geologists, if stricter regulations would have existed then the losses from the destructions would have been lesser. Every section of the society is having a different story to say following their scientific knowledge, belief in God and nature and many more things. Few are blaming the central and the state government for turning their blind eye, towards plundering the hills.

The heavy rainfall created havoc by affecting the fragile nature of the Himalayan range that is known for its poor soil stability in its steep slopes. Apart from the stability of soil in the peaks of the youngest mountains of the world, the other reasons for the disaster as per the expert are: the blind expansion of the hydro-power projects and unplanned construction of roads in the Himalayan region, to match up with the demands of ever increasing traffic in the area.

Geologists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee and Civil Engineering Department (Hill Area Development) Bureau of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in their report to the Uttarakhand Government have blamed the Unplanned Construction of roads for the disaster faced by the state.

The entire watershed across the 135-km stretch between Gaumukh and Uttarakashi along the Bhagirathi River in December 2012 was declared, as an eco-sensitive zone under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. As per the act, all sorts of construction activity in the region required a complete ban and if it would have been implemented than it would have resulted in the closure of the Hydropower project along Bhagirathi River. As per the provisions of the act, ban on mining and all other types of construction activity in the area needed a complete ban, but the decision has always been opposed by the state government with a claim of barring the development activity in the Himalayan state. Hence as per the experts, mining and construction of big hydropower projects are one of the big reasons behind the disaster that killed thousands in Uttarakhand.

Landslide
A landslide is the gravitational movement of a mass of rock, earth or debris down a slope. Landslides are usually classified on the basis of the material involved (rock, debris, earth, mud) and the type of movement (fall, topple, avalanche, slide, flow, spread).

Impacts of Landslides
Landslides are one of the most hazardous forms of destruction in mountain regions across the world. Its impact depends upon the type of materials that comes in its way and the weakness of these materials. The landslides in the mountainous and hilly region is a result of dam construction on the hills that blocks the way of the river, bringing up the valley inundation creating pressure on the lake water, resulting in flash floods (floods in which debris flow downwards).

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