On 13th September 2012 night in Chwanni, Mangoli and Kimana villages of Okhimath block in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand (India), heavy rains completely inundated over 4 villages and eroded 2 more villages, while there are no clues about 20-25 families in these villages. One can see the aftermath of erratic rainfall over the night in the pictures below. Given that the rainy days are almost over, in western parts of Indian Himalayan mountains, there is continuous rainfall for over 2 months, that is usually erratic, leading to flash floods and huge land slides. The natures fury is on, and people are paying the toll to natural calamities. An alarming and situation all over the region in terms of increasing disaster frequencies in last few years. The Uttarkashi flood was one of the recent in this in Uttarakhand state.
The area flooded yesterday night has huge chunk of dense forest that forms is part of famous protected corridor Kedarnath Musk deer sanctuary and beautiful natural lake ‘devaria tal’ in mid-Himalayan range.
Given that the rainy days are almost over, in western parts of Indian Himalayan mountains, there has been continuous and heavy rainfall for over two months leading to floods and huge landslides.
In case of yesterday’s disaster people are wondering about the reason, while a few say about the ongoing construction in mega projects. The road network in this region has completely washed away while by today 68 (14th Sep) deaths have been confirmed by our volunteers working in the field. The para military and Indian army is working with local organizations and volunteers towards rescue operation while majority of dead bodies have been recovered. Due to devastated road network the rescue operation teams have few choices for taking people to nearby hospital by ambulance, which is almost 40 km. away from this area, while the government authorities only have one helicopter for supplies and transferring affected to hospitals.
A recent disaster during August 20102 in Uttarakashi district of Uttarakhand where hundreds of houses were washed away and thousands of families were affected due to flash flood in river Ganges, the reports say that ‘despite repeated incidents, the pace of finding long term solutions by the disaster mitigation and management department seems to be very slow. No mechanism for early warnings has been developed in the state..! “Disaster management is lip service in this state” said one of the head of CSO based in the capital Dehradun. Another report says that ‘while the situation exposes the lack of a proper disaster management system, it is also a pointer to environmental challenges.’
We have seen abysmal disaster preparedness measures given that we have national disaster management authority at national level, a disaster mitigation and management center at Dehradun and similar cell at district level in Rudraprayag! 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.
When we interacted with people in various parts of this mountain state recently they observe that such long spell and erratic rainfall is happening almost after 20-30 years. People in this region also feel that with the increase in temperature the frequency of cloud burst and intermittent rainfall has increased in last few years. The reason in general they state the activities related to deforestation the construction of mega projects and callous nature of people towards natural resources.
Updates- 14th Sep 2012
Our team visited the spot and apart from helping directly we also discussed problems with people. We could see that the road network is available up to Kund (a small station at National Highway), and after that up to Okhimath at each 50 mt. of the road is washed away. About 68 deaths have been declared so far, and many more are still in the debris. The most affected villages are : Chwanni, Mangoli, Brahaman Khola and Kimana, while other affected are Fafanj and Giriya. The calamity happened around 11.30pm on 13th Sep 2012 night. It is said that the main reason for calamity by a series of cloud burst on 13th night. There are no clues about the death toll of livestock population.
Now the Local people with Indo Tibet Boarder Polic and Indian Army’s Sikh Regiments and volunteers from district disaster cell are working at ground. But, major help is coming from local people and volunteers from adjoining villages and Agastyamuni township. Majority of dead bodies were recovered by local volunteers.
The ambulances could only go up to Kund and only one helicopter is available with government for any help. While helicopter is the only option available for any supply to these areas by now, the other means of supplies have yet to come. There are cases where 14 people from single family in Brahman khola died and all dead bodies recovered. The situation is grim and during night it will further aggravate in rescue operation.
Updates-15th Sep 2012
Our team in field informed that government has officially declared 60 deaths by today. The Chief Minister of the state Vijay Bahuguna visited to Okhimath as an official visit through helicopter, and remained their for 15 minutes. By now there are not outside supplies available for the people and the district administration has made camp at a school for those don’t have any other option to live. Most of the affected families are dependent and supported by their relatives for food, health and shelter. The relief and rescue operation is on and most active in this are ITBP and Sikh Regiment with local people. Still there are no details available for livestock and other losses incurred due to the incidence. In the evening the area witnessed rains.
It has been observed that the cloud burst like situation is not exactly understandable given that its mostly localized and above the settlements of Mangoli, Chwanni, Brahaman khola and Kimana.
Gajendra Rautela of Climate Himalaya team says ‘ the situation is worst and unmanageable, while the district authorities are doing their best in rescue operation and sending affected to health centres’.
Updates-16th Sep 2012
In the early whee hours another cloud burst in Kiroda (Jakholi block) of Rudraprayag lead to life of 5 people from a family lost their lives. Other villagers are safe. This is third incidence after Okhimath and Gopeshwar cloud burst. During yesterday night there was another incidence of land slide in Symla village (below Okhimath and Kimana villages), that lead to death of 2 people.
As per our team led by Mr. Gajendra Rautela, a total confirmed death toll in Okhimath has reached 68, and in Jakholi block (Kiroda) 5, a total of 73 deaths. Teams from organizations like SBMA, AT India, and a few other voluntary organizations are working in the affected area, while local villagers are extending their support in rescue operation and proving shelter and food items.
Updates-17th Sep 2012
During whole day the rescue operation was on by the team of para military and armed forces with local volunteers. It has been confirmed that about 70 deaths have occurred during the calamity and there was huge loss of livestock population as well. The electricity in nearby small townships Guptakashi, etc. has been restored today after 3-4 days. But, still in affected villages there is sheer need of Solar lightning system or such alternate energy devises, so that people can use them during night.
The supplies the affected people are looking for related various daily need items, while there are various organization coming forward for supplying them in Okhimath area. However, the problem supply organizations facing is related to storage at the nearby head station Kund, where there is no storage facility available. So, it has been advised by our team that the agencies should consider that where they will be storing these supplies and how they will be carrying them to the affected villages for distribution. This is becoming a major issue.
Now there is need of following items. Those Organizations/ agencies/ individuals want to help people could consider sending following items on priority:
- Tarpaulin sheet / barsaati
- Solar lights / lanterns /batteries/Torch/ Candles
- Milk and such products for children
- Tents and tent installation related items
- Sleeping bags/blankets/bedsheets/pillows/ mattress/dari
- Stove and kitchen utensils
- Water Purifier
- Clothing for children, ladies and gents
- Shoes /children shoes/chappals for all age groups
- Plastic buckets and mugs
- Soaps (bath), detergent powder for hand wash
- Ropes and rucksack
Considering the issue of storage, the Prakriti group/Climate Himalaya team will be providing storage space at Agastyamuni/Silli (20 Km up from Rudraprayag on the way to affected area) and agencies/organizations coming with such relief material.
Contact Mr. Gajendra Rautela at his mobile numbers 9897663711 and 9719137208 or email email@example.com for any help and other support.
Updates-18th Sep 2012
The affected families are now trying to regain from the calamity. The whole day of government functionaries and many political people in the region spent their precious time in the preparation of expected visit of Ms. Sonia Gandhi, the congress party’s leader, who at the last moment didn’t turn up.
However, various individuals and civil society groups were involved in supplying the much needed relief material. By now the available material for the people has been related to food items, bedding and cloths. It is observed that the affected families are looking for putting their own short time shelter for living and also for livestock population. Majority of affected are living in their relatives home, but as long term solution people are in dire need of relief material.
At the relief camp at Inter college in Okhimath the administration could install temporary toilets for the people living in the camp. It has also been observed that apart from various infrastructure (roads, houses, telephone and electricity lines, bridges,), soil erosion, land slide and agriculture related losses the the power supply station on the way to Okhimath from Kund has come under threat due to land slide and huge debris flow from uphill sides. This power station supplies electricity to Okhimath and Guptakashi area.
The ongoing hydro projects Madhu Ganga and Kali Ganga (2 MW each) are also facing problem due to the regular land slide in the area. The district administration and UJVN developing these two Hydro power projects is now working on the strategy to come over from this
Organizations and agencies willing to contribute to the affected families in the region can contact Mr. Gajendra Rautela for any facilitation support at his given numbers above.
People can also contact at following numbers for any further assistance:
- Ms. Meera Kaintura, at Control Room, Rudraprayag: 8859504022
- Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre Dehradun, Uttarakhand: 0135271 0199, 01352710233, 01352710232
- Mr. Om Prakash, Secretary of Disaster Management in Uttarkhand at Phone no.: 0135-2712066 (O) 2735979 (R) 2714106 (F)
- Mr. Yashpal Arya, Minister Disaster Management and Flood Control Phone no: 0135-2666304 (O) 0135-2666308 (f) 0135-2530222 (R) +91-9997196151 (mobile)
- Mr. Gajendra Rautela, Prakriti/Climate Himalaya 9897663711 and 9719137208 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Email us: email@example.com
Photo credit with thanks: Shri Shankar Vishwanath (Okhimath) and Shri Gajendra Rautela (Climate Himalaya, Agastyamuni) Shri Jagdish Kohli (Dehradun), Shri Deepak Benjwal (Agastyamuni), Shri Rakesh Bhatt (Okhimath).
See the Video
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountains and climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last four years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>