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The heavy and erratic rains in western Himalayan region of India is taking toll in its form. Thousands of pilgrims and Tourists are stuck in places due to huge landslides that has blown road networks..! The life in the region is at stand still, and as usual, the supply of basic amenities and facilities are among the major issues. There are abysmal disaster preparedness measures given that we have national disaster management authority to state authority and district level bodies! There are no early warning systems in place nor the small townships and low lying areas get any information on swelling rivers in up-stream sides.
Photo (Left): A photo taken today at Uttarkashi City in Uttarakhand, India, shows how the houses are getting collapsed due to flooded Ganges..! —Photo: Bheems Rawat, Uttarkashi
The existing and ongoing hydro-power projects are not really helping in any manner to channelize or reduce the impacts of heavy rainfalls. Similar situation people in Himalayan region also faced during 2010 floods, when everyone their was disconnected to rest of the world for months.
For example the river Bhagirathi, one of the main tributaries of Ganges had devastated hundreds of houses in its banks in low lying area. With infrastructure losses the lives of the people are at stake including their agriculture and livestock.
The disaster management authorities at national, state and district level are not adequately equipped to deal with such situation, and international agencies due to their remoteness in working. In most of such situations the post disaster actions are visible, while during the disaster like situations, people in this region suffer a lot.
Photo (Right): Land slide in different parts of Uttarakhand, India Photo credit : Hemant Kapkoti.
In state Uttarakhand alone 200 houses damaged completely with 10 major business establishments. Official figures show that 35 people already died due to flash flood and heavy rains in the region. Hundreds of pilgrims have also been stranded with the Chardham Yatra coming to a grinding halt. In the worst natural tragedy to hit the Uttarkashi district since 1978, a cloud burst in the middle of the night drowned three fire brigade personnel. The cloud burst swept away bridges and a large chunk of the Gangotri national highway. In the Gangori area of Uttarkashi, Bhagirathi is flowing above the danger level; people are being evacuated to safer areas.
Flash floods hit Palchan collapsed two bridges and a road which connects Manali to Rohtang while the police rushed to evacuate 120 people from the area. A government school, an under construction hydropower project and many electricity poles were also washed away in the floods.
Jammu and Kashmir
The Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir was affected as water levels in the Ujh river rose. Twenty-three people have been rescued so far, while 90 families living near the Chenab have been evacuated. A number of nomadic families are said to have been displaced.
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Hindustan Times Report 6 August 2012
More than 200 villages in Uttarakhand face threat, 85 need immediate relocation
It has apparently become a routine story for the mountain state Uttarakhand every monsoon, people living in the hills pass through the same trauma.
But despite repeated incidents, the pace of finding ‘long term solutions’ by the disaster mitigation and management department seems to be very slow. Records suggest 233 villages located in fragile areas are disaster-prone and they could face Uttarakashi-like situation any moment, which has witnessed 31 dead in the flash floods during last week.
Three years ago, during the monsoon, two villages, Jhakla and Leh in the remote Munsyari block in Pithoragarh district were completely washed off, with 45 people being killed. Villages in Uttarakashi district faced a similar disaster on last Saturday.
In 2010, several children were killed in a massive landslide in Bageshwar district. Earlier, the infamous cloudburst in Malpa in 1998 had killed 207 people, including 60 pilgrims en route to Kailash Mansarovar. Likewise, 15 villagers were killed in Burman village in a heavy landslide in Munsyari in 2007.
A government report says people of 85 villages need immediately relocation. However, so far relocation work is going on only in one village, Narayan Bagar in Rudraprayag district. This village had witnessed massive landslide in the recent past.
“We need Rs. 600 crore for relocating all villagers but we have only Rs. 50 lakh in our kitty,” principal secretary (disaster management) Omprakash had told HT recently.
The disaster management and mitigation department is a crucial department but the lack of interest shown by the officials concerned indicates that ‘it’s no ones baby’, say experts.
“No mechanism for early warnings has been developed in the state, we focus on geology but there are no takers for hydrology,” observed Jay Singh Rawat, a senior journalist, adding “disaster management is no more than a face saving exercise”.
“Disaster management is lip service in this state. As soon as an incident occurs, VIPs rush to that spot. They should be banned completely,” said Avdhash Kaushal, chairperson RLEK.
Times of India’s Report 6 August 2012
Flash floods a presage to reality of climate change
Incessant rains and flash floods in the Himalayan states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have been causing death and destruction. Dozens of people have been killed and thousands rendered homeless by torrential rains ravaging the area for the last few days. Widespread landslides in the region have made relief work extremely difficult. The problem has been compounded by the fact that the region is not used to such flash floods and the authorities concerned are, therefore, unprepared to face the challenge.
While the situation exposes the lack of a proper disaster management system, it is also a pointer to environmental challenges. The heavy rains lashing the Himalayan states should be seen against the stark fact that the monsoon this year has, more or less, been a failure. Meteorologists are sceptical whether the next two months of the monsoon would be able to make up for the shortfall in rains felt during the last two months. Even a state like Kerala, which is usually the first to receive monsoon rains, has not received enough rains this season leaving its dams and other reservoirs nearly dry.
This phenomenon is difficult to explain except as a vagary of nature. A few years ago, the desert areas of Rajasthan experienced heavy rains and consequential flash floods. Similarly, the city of Mumbai received such heavy rains one day that its drainage system collapsed completely, rendering millions of people helpless. Such freak phenomena, now becoming quite common, cannot but be a matter of grave concern. They can be identified only as symptoms of climate change, about which environmentalists have been warning. Take the case of the Himalayan states, where rapid ecological degradation has been taking place, consequent to heavy cutting of trees and excessive exploitation of mineral wealth like limestone. Unless long-term measures are taken to arrest this trend, disasters of the kind cannot be averted.
Updates 8 August
Inter Agency Coordination
Due to the recent disaster (flash floods and landslides), approximately 1700 families are affected from Gangori to Uttarkashi. Most of the families are presently living with their known people and kith and kin but as per the latest survey (done by SBMA, dated 6th Aug-12) approx. 922 people are living in 13 relief camps in Uttarkashi City , Joshiyara and Gangori. There have been reports of same food ie Dal and Rice being served both times which is a concern for the old age and sick people (detailed information copy attached).
Currently SBMA (district IAG member) has deployed more then 50 people in 11 teams for the detailed assessment of the damages and emergency needs in block Bhatwari, one of the most affected area. The teams would be able to produce the information in next 2 -3 days (up to Friday). Currently most of these areas are inaccessible.
There are approx. 2000 people caught up in 7 villages of Sangamchatti area in block Bhatwari and currently they do no have any connectivity and are inaccessible. A team of 4 people has already been sent to the area and they will take 2-3 days to reach there and also take the assessment. The team will share the information to IAG Uttarkashi by day after tomorrow.
In total, approx. 70,000 people are affected in whole Bhatwari block by this disaster as there is no accessibility and essential supplies are not reaching those areas. Detailed information of damage and impact would be available after the assessment teams share their reports.
Coordination with media and govt.: Today (7 th Aug, 2012) in the morning IAG and Media agencies have reached this conclusion that there is need to communicate with the people in remote area and supply food, medicines and other necessary supplies. IAG would also meet the District Magistrate to raise the concern for block Bhatwari.
Contact Points for Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand) Flood:
1.Mr. Gopal Thapliyal Secretary District IAG-Uttarkashi 09411142957, 09756706551 gopalthapliyal@sbmahimalaya.
2.Mr. Birjesh Singh IAG coordinator, District IAG-Uttarkashi 09818975916 firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Mr. Raman Kumar Sphere India 09910082661 email@example.com
Source: Sphere India group
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