Landslides: A Human-Made Tragedy

by GoNews Desk 2 years ago Views 14148

Landslides are proving to be a relentless problem in Uttarakhand, and they are regularly reported from various districts of the state. The Char Dhaam Yatra is also slated to continue amid the continuous reports of overhead rock slippages and landslides.

The prevalence of landslides and flash floods pose big problems for pilgrims. One such incident emerged on Wednesday on the Badrinath national highway when landslides caused rubble to accumulate on the road. Although these incidents are nothing new, yet the blockage of a national highway due to rubble not only inconveniences the local people but also other travellers.  

The regular disasters in the state show the adverse effects of rain and the flooding and landslips that it brings with it, causing immense losses. These issues are further aggravated by climate change caused by global warming which is a major challenge for the region.

Thousands Have Died In Uttarakhand Landslides

Landslides are among the most destructive natural disasters which affects many mountainous regions around the world. India is one of the countries where landslides cause the greatest number of deaths in its hill states.

In the Indian context, there were 580 landslide incidents of which 477 were caused by rain between 2001-13. This accounts for 14.52% .

 A report by the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Board states that 221 people including 60 pilgrims perished due to landslides in Malpa area of Pithoragarh district during the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra on 17 August 1998. Similarly, there were landslide incidents in Rudraprayag district from 9-12 August and 17-19 August, 1998 in which 103 people were killed and 47 villages were destroyed.

In the 2010 monsoon season, hundreds of people were killed in the state after heavy rainfall led to landslides. A report by the Uttarakhand government says that 220 were killed during this time. The report says that 65 people lost their lives in four days between 18-21 September 2010. Apart from this, 6 people went missing and 21 were injured. 534 homes were completely destroyed while an additional 2138 were suspected to have been buried under the debris.

Flash Floods In Uttarakhand Cause Scores Of Deaths 

Besides, the state also has a significant problem of flash floods which has almost been accepted as normal. These floods cause heavy damages to life and property and are an aggravating factor in landslide incidents.  On 18th September 2010, 18 children were buried under the debris and lost their lives after a landslide hit Saraswati Shishu Mandir, a private primary school in Bageshwar District. 

In the year 2013, 106 people were killed in landslides between 16-17th June and thousands were rendered homeless. The Uttarakhand State Diester Management Department informs us that in the nine years between September 2010 and 2019, 265 people were reported dead due to major landslide incidents. Between 2001 to 2013, there were over 5000 casualties in landslide and flash flood related disasters. 

Work Continues On Char Dhaam Road Project 

Amid the persistent danger posed by these disasters, work is ongoing on the plan for a Char Dham road project. The project aims to improve the accessibility of the Char Dhaam pilgrimage spots, i.e., Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath, by widening the roads by up to 10 meters. 33-43,000 trees will have to be cut down under this project over an area of 500 hectares. 

One report states that Uttarakhand has a total forested area of 2,429,500 hectares which is increasing by 11 hectares annually. Even if this rate continues, it will take 40 to 50 years for the deforested area to be recovered.

A major part of the project’s area comes under the dry slope of the river. The road widening project and the ruthless tree-cutting it will entail can prove seriously detrimental to biodiversity and the ecological balance. The slopes along rivers are safe only until there is an adequate tree cover. The soil becomes lose and unstable after they are cut and this increases the possibility of landslides. 

Another important point is that a majority part of this road project will be undertaken in the hills, through which it will move on to Gujarat. Blasts and heavy machinery will be used during the course of this project. It is being argued that blasts cause cracks in the mountains and the risk of devastating landslides increases in these areas in the long term. 

Considered this way, the landslide disasters in the state are not natural, but rather, a human-made tragedy.

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