Man-made factors to blame Uttarakhand Floods: Environmentalists

The devastating floods of Uttarakhand which ravaged the region by killing thousands and leaving hundreds of other stranded has more man-made factors and less natural cause behind it. As per Environmentalists the uncontrolled development and poor disaster planning has aggravated flood damage.

How is it a man-made disaster?

As per experts indiscriminate development in hill towns and along rivers has blocked the natural flow of water and exacerbated flood damage. They place the blame on successive governments who have prioritized large scale infrastructure construction and neglected disaster prevention. The unbridled growth of tourism accompanied with proliferation of roads, hotels, shops and multistory housing in ecologically fragile areas and above all mushrooming hydroelectricity dams that disrupt water balances are the underlying causes of this catastrophe. It was not unprecedented that Uttarakhand region witnessed such heavy rainfalls as the records show that Uttarakhand has recorded single-day rainfall in excess of 400mm several times, including 450mm in 1995 and 900mm in 1965. Cloudbursts, floods and rapid swelling of fast-flowing rivers aren’t uncommon. But this time the floodwaters, loaded with tens of thousands of tonnes of silt, boulders and debris from dam construction, found no outlet. The routes they took in the past, including ravines and streams, were blocked with sand and rocks. The waters deluged towns and villages, submerging some buildings under several feet of mud, asphyxiating life.
It is highly probable that the floods were exacerbated by Glacier Lake Outbursts Floods (GLOFs) which inundated the Kedarnath temple. GLOFs, or the explosive bursting of glacier lakes, are thought to be a result of human-induced climate change, which is causing rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, themselves warming at twice the global rate.

Lack of an early warning system, effective evacuation plans and a responsive disaster management system added to the calamity. Modestly priced radar-based technology to forecast cloudbursts would have saved lives. But it wasn’t installed.

There was failure on the level of local governance too. Sloppy, unregulated construction of roads and bridges was permitted on crumbling, landslide-prone ridges and steep slopes, overlooking the region’s delicate geology and high earthquake vulnerability. Large scale deforestation and construction of hundreds of buildings in the flood plains of rivers have taken place. Riverbeds were recklessly mined for sand. As construction debris accumulated, land contours and flows of streams and rivers changed.

Indiscriminate construction of hydroelectric dams was the biggest mistake. These involve drilling huge tunnels in the hills by blasting rocks, placing enormous turbines in the tunnels, destroying soil-binding vegetation to build water channels and other infrastructure, laying transmission lines and carelessly dumping excavated muck. Many dams have been built on the same river so close to one another that they leave no scope for its regeneration.

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Categories: Environment Current Affairs 2017Science and Technology Current Affairs - 2017

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