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Analysis of Uttarakhand Floods as to what are the reasons why it happened Flash floods warnings unheeded: Geologists
Geologists had repeatedly warned that sedimentary rock structure of the Himalayas comprising shale and siltstone is extremely pliable and construction of structures close to the rivers is a precursor for disaster
Several Himalayan geologists have repeatedly expressed apprehension against the massive road and dam-building construction activity taking place in Uttarakhand which had resulted in the hillsides “crumbling. States oppose Model Flood Bill
Even as floods play havoc in Uttarakhand, several states have opposed the provisions of a 38-year-old Model Flood Bill aimed at minimising losses to life and property in the natural calamity.
The CWC had circulated the model bill to all the states to help the state governments enact the legislation. Except for Manipur and Rajasthan, no state legislature has enacted the 'Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning'. Human hand behind flood disaster
Ecologists point out that the huge expansion of hydro-power projects and construction of roads to cope with the lakhs of tourists in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh has compounded the scale of the disaster.
There are of course links between climate change and extreme weather events as has happened with the torrential rain in Uttarakhand. But this has been exacerbated by the reckless construction of buildings, dams and roads in a fragile environment. Many of the settlements have been built right next to the rivers in blatant violation of environmental laws. The expansion of roads has proved a major destabilising factor combined as it is with plans to construct over 200 dams in this sensitive eco-zone. Data with the Uttarakhand state transport department bears this out.
The state has seen a 1000 per cent increase in vehicular traffic in the last eight years, with ecologists having forewarned about the correlation between tourism increase and the higher increase of landslides. The heavy machines plying everyday on the kutcha roads have weakened it, and hence landslides occur more often.
Lack of Technology & Communication:
The state of Andhra Pradesh has placed rainfall gauges at a distance of every 10 kilometres. No other state has this and it is for this reason that we were able to evacuate 5.5 lakh people when the Krishna river was in spate in 2007.
But Uttarakhand is hilly terrain. The lack of Doppler radar in the higher reaches was one of the main reasons why the local authorities failed to alert the citizens or the incoming tourists.

Another critical area is that of communication - both between government agencies and between citizens themselves. Mobile communication towers at Kedarnath survived the devastation wreaked by the flash floods. These, however, went out of the grid when the power supply was cut off and generation sets ran out of fuel, putting the area out of communication. Availability of cellular communication would have aided in need assessment, relief and rescue and coordination of the air effort and provided much needed psychological boost to the survivors. This is another grey area in the disaster management framework as there are no guidelines issued by the Department of Communications for telecom companies for disaster-proofing their infrastructure and taking measures for early restoration of the communications network.

Roads destabilising mountains
Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, two hill states in the Himalayan range, are so far the worst hit by the extreme rains that struck northern India in the wake of monsoons that set in early this year.. Heavy rainfall has wreaked havoc on the region because of the fragile nature of the Himalayan range and poor soil stability in its steep slopes
The valleys of the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Alaknanda witness heavy traffic of tourists. For this, the government has to construct new roads and widen the existing ones. Data with the Uttarakhand State Transport Department confirms this. In 2005-06, 83,000-odd vehicles were registered in the state. The figure rose to nearly 180,000 in 2012-13. Out of this, proportion of cars, jeeps and taxis, which are the most preferred means of transport for tourists landing in the state, increased the most. In 2005-06, 4,000 such vehicles were registered, which jumped to 40,000 in 2012-13. It is an established fact that there is a straight co-relation between tourism increase and higher incidence of landslides.
Threat from dams
The Ganga in the upper reaches has been an engineer’s playground. The Central Electricity Authority and the Uttarakhand power department have estimated the river’s hydroelectric potential at some 9,000 MW and have planned 70-odd projects on its tributaries. In building these projects the key tributaries would be modified—through diversion to tunnels or reservoirs—to such an extent that 80 per cent of the Bhagirathi and 65 per cent of the Alaknanda could be “affected”. As much as 90 per cent of the other smaller tributaries could be “affected” the same way.
Deforestation :Rampant growth of concrete and cutting down of trees, have not helped the nature at all. Environment, ecology and geology are an integral part of the whole natural process. In such situation, the course of any river is determined by the terrain and gradient of the river and when encountered by a hitch, the river changes its course and naturally takes away anything that comes in between.
The region is surrounded by 8000 glacial lakes, 200 of them potentially dangerous
The Himalayan states, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, are surrounded by about 200 potentially dangerous glacial lakes formed by glacial melt, but till date no early warning system is in place to evacuate people in case these lakes breach their thin walls of debris and loose soil, a phenomenon known as glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF)
Formation of Glacial Lakes in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas and GLOF Risk Assessment” by Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) shows that Hindu Kush-Himalayan region does not have any early flash flood warning system in place despite being surrounded by over 8,000 glacial lakes, around 200 of them potentially dangerous. North Indian states that fall in this region include Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, all affected by the recent extreme rainfall event.
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan land mass has much significance. Its interaction with the Indian monsoon system, together with seasonal melt of snow and glacial ice, affects the vital water supply to many of the world’s greatest rivers. Beyond the mountains, lower reaches of these river basins provide water for almost a third of humanity. Approximately 968 glaciers drain into the Ganga basin in Uttarakhand and over 4,660 glaciers feed the Indus, Shyok, Jhelum and Chenab river systems. The Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Sutlej river systems are fed by 1,375 glaciers and 611 glaciers drain into the Teesta and Brahmaputra basins and contribute between 50 – 70 per cent of the annual discharge.
As the volume of water increases, so does the pressure on the dams of ice or glacial sediment, called moraine, which hold the lake in place on the side of the mountain. Once that pressure reaches the tipping point, heavy rainfall from a sudden cloudburst, a landslide, or an earthquake can breach the dam, sending a deadly torrent of ice, rock and water down on the people living below
Along with the new meltwater, increasingly frequent cloudbursts endanger the villages and cities of both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh — where there are some 250 glacial lakes above population centers like the tourist town of Manali.
Already, images from remote sensing satellites show that the water level in Parchu Lake, in Tibet, is rising rapidly, putting some two dozen towns and villages along India's Sutlej River in Himachal Pradesh at risk.
Besides the risk of cloudburst and glacial flow the himalayan belt has been iudentified with having seismic activity which makes it prone to earthquakes as well hence there is wevery posiibiltity that the regions around Himalayn ranges is likely to face such disasters of massive destruction in future and hence there is a need to check and ensure the loss is minimal

This you may use to incorporate in UTDMS
As per the model bill, different types of buildings and utility services have been grouped under three priorities from the point of view of damage likely to occur. The bill provides clauses about flood zoning authorities, surveys and delineation of flood plain area, notification of limits of flood plains, prohibition of the use of the flood plains, compensation and most importantly removing obstructions to ensure free flow of water.
'Priority-I' areas including defence installations, industries and public utilities such as hospitals, power houses, airports and railway stations are to be located in such a way that they are above the highest flood level in the last 100 years. 'Priority-II' areas include public institutions, government offices, educational institutions, public libraries and residential areas. The buildings are proposed to be above a level corresponding to a 25—year high flood level or a 10—year rainfall record with a mandatory clause that all buildings in vulnerable zones be constructed on columns or stilts.
'Priority-III' areas would include parks and playgrounds. While these would provide the city with green lungs, it would ensure that the areas most prone to floods are not populated. The CWC had initiated preparation of topographic maps on a 1:15,000 scale to enable state governments identify flood prone areas. But the scheme was abandoned in 1991 due to poor response from the states.

The IMD is planning to start an Integrated Mountain Meteorology Department. They need to install Doppler radar which will help them in “nowcasting”. We need to have precise forecasts with details of place, time and intensity.
For the country’s other two major Hindu pilgrimage centres — Vaishno Devi and Amarnath — the IMD gives a forecast at 4 every morning about the likely weather conditions for various locations along the two routes. A sudden cloudburst can result in a stampede problem in Amarnath.
We will have to start something similar for Uttarakhand where the roads are narrow and there are chances of landslides resulting in the blocking of traffic. We need to plan all this in a much more precise manner.

Model Flood Bill The bill, prepared by the Central Water Commission in 1975, will empower authorities to remove dwellings from flood-prone areas. States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have opposed the draft bill, saying rehabilitation of people who will be displaced after the dwellings are removed is a difficult task http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/man-made-reasons-uttarakhand-d http://www.fairobserver.com/article/uttarakhand-disaster-wake-callisaster
Lessons from Uttarakhand tragedy Some of the lessons that Uttarakhand and other Himalayan states can draw from the current tragedy include: * Ensure credible environmental and social impact assessment of all activities including all dams and all hydropower projects of above 1 MW capacity, such assessments should also include how the projects can increase the disaster potential of the area, how they will affect the adaptation capacity of the local people in the context of climate change, how the projects themselves would be affected in changing climate, among other aspects. Currently, we do not have credible environmental and social impact assessment for any project. * Ensure credible environmental compliance mechanism in place for each project in which local people have a key role. Today we have NO credible environmental compliance in place. * No projects should be cleared until and unless there is credible cumulative impact assessment for all projects in any river basin and sub basin, which includes carrying capacity study. None of this was done in Uttarakhand and none is in place in any river basin of Arunachal Pradesh. * An urgent review of under construction and under planning projects should be taken up, stop projects awaiting such a review. The review should include various environment and river governance policies. Moratorium on dams and hydropower projects til above conditions are satisfied. * Certain rivers and certain high risk zones should be declared as no project areas in each basin. * In any case, there should be at least 5 km of free flowing rivers between any two projects. At least 50% of river flows in lean season and at least 30% of river flows in monsoon should be released on daily changing as environmental flows as recommended by IMG recently, pending project and river specific studies. This should be applicable for all projects, including existing and under construction projects. * Put in place system of early warning, forecasting and dissemination for all kinds of disasters, particularly those related to rainfall and landslides. It is technologically feasible to predict even cloud bursts at least 3 hours in advance, a Doppler radar system was sanctioned for Uttarakhand since 2008 that would have enabled that, but due to lack of coordination between NDMA, IMD and Uttarakhand government, this was not in place. * Put in place a clearly defined monitoring system in place that will give prompt report of actual rainfall events even as the event starts so that the downstream area people and administration can be alerted. This again was absent in Uttarakhand. * Protection and conservation of rivers, riverbeds and flood plains, including aquatic biodiversity. * Do not allow encroachment of riverbeds and floodplains. * Prepare clearly defined space for rivers, have river regulation zone in place and remove all illegal encroachments in river beds and flood plains in a time bound manner urgently through legislative, followed by executive action. * Do not allow unsustainable mining of riverbeds. * Do not allow blasting for any development activity (Uttarakhand Disaster Management & Mitigation Centre made this specific recommendation after the Rudraprayag disaster of Sept 2012 that lead to death of 69 people) as such blasting leads to increase in landslides. * Protection of catchments including forests, wetlands and local water bodies that can play the role of cushion during high rainfall events. * All states, including those in North East must have an active state disaster management authority in place that will have key role in all development decisions.
While rainfall and cloud bursts are natural phenomena, the disaster potential of such events directly depends on what we have done on ground over the years. Uttarakhand, by, allowing indiscriminate building of roads, buildings and hundreds of hydropower projects without doing basic assessments and participatory decision making processes, have allowed the disaster potential of current high intensity rainfall in the state increase manifold. While some in the media are calling this as Himalayan Tsunami, many people of Uttarakhand are seeing it as a trailer of such Tsunami, if Uttarakhand does not wake up, much bigger tragedy may await the state.
Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Jammu & Kashmir have gone rather too far down that road, but still can wake up and review its development plans and policies and possibly reduce the disaster potential in the respective states. Similarly Arunachal Pradesh has signed over 150 MOUs for big hydropower projects, each of them will entail big dam, long and huge tunnels, blasting, mining, roads, townships, influx of people, transmission lines and so on, without any credible assessment in place. These projects are being pushed under one pretext of another, including the China bogey.…...

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