Uttarakhand floods ravage many regions of the state
After seven years, when the northern state of Uttarakhand saw a devastating cloudburst and floods, the state again witnessed a natural disaster this week. The Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, triggering an avalanche and a deluge in the Alaknanda river system that washed away hydroelectric stations. At least seven people have died and more than 125 are missing who are feared dead. The glacier burst led to a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river.
What may have caused it?
One of the most widely considered scenarios for the incident is the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF). Glacial lakes are formed when a glacier retreats, and are usually dammed in by moraines which are deposits of soil and rock left behind by a moving glacier. If the dam bursts because of increasing pressure from a growing lake (or other external reasons), it can cause widespread flooding and destruction downstream. The 2013 floods of Uttarakhand was caused by a GLOF. It is assumed that the same happened this time too.
Retreating glaciers, like several in the Himalayas, usually result in the formation of lakes at their tips, called proglacial lakes, often bound only by sediments and boulders. If the boundaries of these lakes are breached, it can lead to large amounts of water rushing down to nearby streams and rivers, gathering momentum on the way by picking up sediments, rocks and other material, and resulting in flooding downstream.
The Tapovan hydroelectric power project is badly hot where at least 35 people are still stranded in waist-deep muck. The floods also damaged the National Thermal Power Corporation’s 530 MW Tapovan Vishnugrad project.
More than 300 personnel of the state and national disaster response force, and 700 personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), and army are deployed to help people stuck in the region.
Did you know?
Many climate activists have been pointing out the climate change or disproportionate construction in a fragile ecosystem as a reason for the floods in the Himalayan state.