Threat of Uttarakhand-like Disaster in Himachal Pradesh, Scientists Worried

May 28th, 2014 | By | Category: Disasters and Climate Change, Flood, India, Vulnerability

Times News Network: Increased vulnerability of Himachal Pradesh to climate change has posed the threat of Uttarakhand like disaster. In 2013, bursting of a small lake in front of Chorabari glacier coupled with heavy rainfall had wreaked havoc in Uttarakhand and in Himachal Pradesh 249 glacial lakes exists of which 11 have been identified as having high potential for breach. In the state, Beas basin has 80 glacial lakes, Chenab basin 16, Ravi 28 and Satluj 98.

Last year, disastrous effect of heavy rainfall was also seen in the Kinnaur district and other parts of Himachal Pradesh. Scientists said that mountain environment of Himachal Pradesh is very sensitive and highly vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate induced changes in the micro as well as macro environment which has been witnessed in the form of cloud bursts, flash floods due to one or other reason, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), retreating glaciers, changing snowfall patterns and the increasing avalanche vulnerability over the Himalayan region.

Associate professor of geomorphology at Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) Delhi, Dr Milap Chand Sharma, who had studied and reported these water bodies said that these glacial lakes need close monitoring. “The 11 glacial lakes are classified high risk as they can burst anytime. A GLOF is a powerful discharge of water from a glacial lake that mobilizes large boulders and ice,” he added.

Sharma said that GLOFs, however infrequent, have severe hazards. One such flood in the Chenab took place in the 1880s. It smashed bridges beyond national borders. GLOFs are important to estimate the likely magnitude of future floods. A Centre-funded study of glaciers and glacial lakes has found that in Himachal, the Satluj basin has 40% of all glacial lakes, followed by Beas (32%). Proglacial and supraglacial lakes (17.2%) are the one with high potential of breaching.

Scientists on Wednesday would meet in Shimla to discuss the issue of snow avalanche and flood hazards in Himachal Pradesh as considering the vulnerability of state to climate induced hazards, the State Centre on Climate Change is holding an awareness workshop.

Dr S S Negi, director, environment-cum-member secretary, State Council for Science Technology and Environment, said that basic objective of holding the workshop is to sensitize the government machinery on this vital issue with focus mainly on snow avalanche and the floods which have been rocking the state during past.

He said that scientists from National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), Snow Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) and CWC Shimla will apprise the participants about the status, issues, management mitigation strategies of these hazards in the state.

“Dr Anand Sharma, Regional Diretor, IMD Dehradun, would discuss the conditions of the meteorological parameteres during 2013 in Uttrakhand that led to Kedarnath tragedy, which will help us to learn the lessons from Kedarnath tragedy in order to prevent any such situation in Himachal Pradesh,” he added.

Factfile:

On August 15, 1997: 115 people were killed after cloudburst hit Chirgaon town of Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh around 3000 people were left homeless.

On July 16, 2003: Around 40 people were killed after cloudburst hit Shilagarh area of Garsa valley in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.

On August 14, 2007: Around 52 people were killed after cloudburst occurred hit Bhavi village in Ghanvi area of Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh.

August 2009: Cloudburst left several government buildings and bridges damaged in Nirmand area of Kullu district.

September 2010: Around a dozen villages were affected by a cloudburst in Kharahal valley of Kullu.

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