Tag Archives: Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand: Another disaster in the making?

Nivedita Khandekar

Even when the scientists across the globe are yet to establish the exact turn of events that led to the disaster in Chamoli in February first week, recent satellite imagery has warned of a similar impending disaster.

Overview of the site of the rock ice avalanche from Feb 7, 2021 (courtesy: Scott Watson)

A month after the disaster in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand that saw more than 70 dead and 130-odd missing, a premier global scientific organisation has warned that mass movement activities are still occurring in the zone where the initial rock and ice had failed in that high-altitude Himalayan region.

Massive flash flood was triggered due to breaking of a glacier in Nanda Devi massif leading to an avalanche in the Rishi Ganga valley above Joshi Math in Chamoli district on February 7. Two hydroelectric power projects – NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project – were extensively damaged and the floods trapped several hundred labourers in the projects’ tunnels. More than three weeks later, as rescue operations continue, government has declared 72 people dead and 133 missing in the disaster.

Even when independent scientific and government’s environmental organisations are researching the exact cause of floods, there is some clarity now, thanks to satellite images.

Earlier, scientists had said that a major rock/ice avalanche detached itself at an elevation of about 5,600 m above sea level from a North facing slope Northeast of Trishul Peak in the Nanda Devi mountain. This caused the massive floods in the Rishiganga / Dhauliganga river.

Analysis of satellite imagery from the area show that this event occurred due to failure deep within the bedrock of the mountain, and the glacier ice was most probably entrained with the collapsing block of bedrock. The failing mass covered an area of around 0.2 km.

Scientists working under the Glacier and Permafrost Hazards in Mountains (GAPHAZ) have found out.

GAPHAZ is a scientific standing group of the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences and the International Permafrost Association.

Historical imagery also indicate that a similar event has occurred in the neighbouring glacier just East of the current in September 2016, the analysis said, adding, “However, the initiation of the failure as well as the eventual trigger of the avalanche remain unclear. It is also important to note that unstable geological configuration and steep topography can, on its own, be a sufficient driver of large slope failures.”

But what the scientists have to say further from the in-depth analysis of satellite images is alarming. “Recent high resolution satellite imagery indicate that mass movement activities are still occurring in the zone where the initial rock and ice failed (on February 7). In case of another slope failure and avalanche, it can be critical for people and infrastructure downstream, close to the riverbed. It can be normal follow up activity of the main event, but it cannot be excluded that important secondary events can occur,” the study warned.

During the short tenure, high in intensity event on February 7, large volumes of material have been eroded from the mountains and deposited along the river channel. In combination with water from rivers, snow melt, heavy (monsoon) rainfall or overflow of temporary lakes, debris flows can be triggered from these depositions. “Erosion by the flood probably has undercut some slopes, and this instability could affect roads, villages and other infrastructure located far above the riverbed,” the study added.

Lauding the response to this disaster by the Indian and international science community as “extraordinary”, what with first analyses being provided within just about 24 hours, Dr Christian Huggel, Environment and Climate: Impacts, Risks and Adaptation (EClim), Glaciology & Geomorphodynamics, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, attributed it to the revolutionary developments in the satellite remote sensing over the past decades and coordination of the science community in international commissions such as GAPHAZ.

“While the Himalayan region is particularly prone to, and impacted by climate change, enhancing mass movement turn-over (such as sediment flux, or extreme events as in Chamoli), large slope failures (rock-ice avalanches) as in the case of Chamoli/Ronti Peak are often difficult to attribute to climate change. Such efforts need in-depth understanding and field and remote sensing data, for instance on geologic structure, permafrost occurrence and thermal distribution and perturbation, glacier decline history and mechanical stress changes in the affected steep slopes. Thorough investigation of the case will improve our understanding on all levels and hence provide the basis for targeted actions,” Dr Huggel said in a statement.

An analysis by the New Delhi-based Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CCEW) in February after the Chamoli disaster has revealed that more than 85% of districts in Uttarakhand, home to over nine crore people, are hotspots for extreme floods and its associated events. The frequency and intensity of extreme flood events in Uttarakhand have increased four-fold since 1970.

Similarly, associated flood events such as landslides, cloud bursts, glacial lake outbursts, etc. have also increased four-fold during this period, causing massive loss and damage. Chamoli, Haridwar, Nainital, Pithoragarh, and Uttarkashi districts are the most vulnerable to extreme floods, the CEEW study said.

According to a report on climate change released by the Ministry of Earth Sciences last year, the Hindu Kush Himalayas has experienced a temperature rise of about 1.3°C during 1951–2014. The increase in temperature has led to micro climatic changes and faster glacial retreat in Uttarakhand, thereby triggering frequent and recurrent flash floods.

Nivedita Khandekar is an independent journalist based in Delhi. She writes on environmental and developmental issues. She can be reached at nivedita_him@rediffmail.com or follow her on twitter at @nivedita_Him

Rs. 200 crore weddings in Garhwal Hills: Questions that will stare at the guests

Newsroom24x7 Network

Auli, Joshimath, Uttarakhand

New Delhi: This past weekend, a section of the Indian mainstream media broke the story that the controversial Gupta brothers – Ajay and Atul – NRIs from South Africa, will be splurging something like Rs. 200 crore in hosting the wedding of their two sons in the Garhwal hills of Uttarakhand between June 18 and 22.

Uma Bharti
Uma Bharti

Reports indicate that the Uttarakhand State authorities are doing everything to make the event a grand success. Significantly, in this backdrop, former Union Minister and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, firebrand saffron clad Uma Bharti today issued a statement questioning the cost intensive wedding at Joshimath in Uttarakhand. Drawing attention to the deep and wide chasm between the rich and poor in the country, Bharti has said such vulgar display of wealth through weddings like this is responsible for the spread of the radical Maoist and the Naxalite idealogy, which is at the root of left-wing terrorism. Foreign forces have also used this drawback to weaken the country, she has further stated.

According to available reports a large number of helicopters have been hired for the wedding guests, including politicians, captains of industry and film personalities.

For a backgrounder on the controversial Guptas, Newsroom24x7 is reproducing its exclusive investigative report published on 16 July 2017

From Gandhi to Guptas: Satyagrah to “State Capture” in South Africa

The controversial family of the Guptas, which is more infamous than famous for its close ties with the President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and his family, is now facing the heat as the powerful Gupta brothers – Atul Gupta, Ajay Gupta, and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta – earlier this month (July 2017) were slapped with the charge by Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Finance, David Maynier that along with Mosebenzi Zwane – the then MEC of Agriculture and Rural Development– who hails from Vrede, these brothers should be tried for racketeering, money laundering, assisting another to benefit from the proceeds of unlawful activities, and acquiring, possessing or using the proceeds of unlawful activities in terms of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (No. 121 of 1998); and submitting false, or untrue, tax returns in terms of the Tax Administration Act (No. 28 of 2011).

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The Hindu reported on 27 February 2018 that the Johannesburg branch of Bank of Baroda had “suppressed alerts of suspicious activity in the politically influential Gupta family’s complex web of bank accounts Senior Bank of Baroda (BoB) officials suppressed numerous alerts filed by junior officials at the Johannesburg branch about transactions in accounts controlled by the Gupta brothers of the Sahara group, whose financial dealings resulted in the resignation of South African President Jacob Zuma.”

Other reference:

In October 2017, it was reported that the FBI had opened an investigation into Gupta nephews Ashish and Amol, who are US Citizens, resident in Texas, as a result of payments received from a Gupta-linked company in the United Arab Emirates.

On 16 February 2018, two days after Zuma had stepped down as president of South Africa, Ajay Gupta was declared a fugitive from justice by South African authorities after he had failed to turn himself over to the authorities

Himalayan tahrs roasted alive in forest fire

Newsroom24x7 Network

New Delhi: A large population of  the endangered Tahrs has been roasted alive in raging forest fires in Uttarakhand

Experts are asking pertinent questions in the wake of the Tehri disaster. Those in knowledgeable circles want to know what caused porosity, fragmentation of consolidated forest canopy and loss of growing stock leading to reduction in “crown density” that in turn has caused massive loss of moisture and the resultant inferno.

What should not be lost track of is the fact that under the Forest Right Act, 2007, 1.91 crore acres of forest land has been distributed to tribals and forest dwellers up to 31 December 2017.

People should also know that the Parliament passed and the Forest Rights Act was enacted in 2007 without understanding, and analysing the impact of the legislation.

The Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) is a large even-toed ungulate native to the Himalayas in southern Tibet, northern Pakistan, northern India and Nepal. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, as the population is declining due to hunting and habitat loss.

Trivendra Singh Rawat will be Uttarakhand CM 

Newsroom24x7 Staff

Dehradun: In Uttarakhand, where Assembly elections have just concluded and Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged the winner, Trivendra Singh Rawat was today elected as leader of the BJP leguslature party leader.

Rawat, who has been an RSS pracharak, will take the oath of office and secrecy along with his council of ministers in Dehradun on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and BJP chief Amit Shah will be present at the ceremony.

After his election, Rawat and state BJP unit president Ajay Bhatt , along with a few BJP MLAs met Governor K K Paul and staked claim to form the government.