Death Frost Doom: The Chamoli Tragedy

Source: BBC

A horrendous calamity reminiscent of 2013 Kedarnath tragedy struck in Tapovan region of Chamoli in Uttarakhand on February 7. The phenomena known as Glacier burst triggered massive floods ransacking lives and property, rendering hundreds of people homeless.

The Glacier Bursts are caused due to the retreat of glaciers creating proglacial lakes, bounded by sediments and boulders. The pressure of water and structural weakness caused due to natural or man made dams leads to an explosion of water, resulting in an influx of floodwater rushing down the river and water streams engulfing everything in its path. In the Chamoli tragedy a humongous chunk of Glacier in Nanda Devi broke off and fell into the Dhauliganga river, tributary of river ganga situated near Raini village in the district of Chamoli, Uttarakhand. The floodwater led to catastrophic rise in water level which was coupled with great intensity, sufficient enough to wash away Rishinganga Hydropower and severely damaging Tapovan - Vishnugad Hydro Power project.

The damage amounts to a total of five bridges - four suspension and one motorable, blocking access to eighteen villages and severe damage to 200 MW national power grid plunged hundreds of villagers into darkness. This horrific disaster left people questioning the frequency of these calamities and the crucial role played by climate change. Geologists around the world have credited a stark incline in global temperatures responsible for glacial reduction at a rapid pace. Warmer winters and less snowfall can boost the melting of glaciers, causing rise in water level.

It has been estimated that some 3 million Olympic size swimming pools of water melts away from the Himalyan glaciers each year, the process has accelerated due to global warming. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the rate of glacial retreat has increased dramatically since the 20th century, the most brutal aspect of this calamity is the uncertainty. Regions of Peru and Nepal have witnessed lethal glacial floods claiming the lives of 6000 people in the town of Huaraz, Peru in 1941. The events of Glacier bursts are gradually becoming common, which has made monitoring of high risk areas even more important. The regions such as Andes and Himalayas are specifically challenging due to remoteness of glaciers.

Man Made Catastrophe

According to Geologists and local dwellers the Rishiganga Hydropower plant defied all the environmental norms and was perceived by villagers as an imminent threat. Renowned conservationist often dubbed as ‘Water man of India’ stated “No dams should be constructed on river Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and Mandakini as there are very steep slopes in the area and is an extremely eco-sensitive zone. However, rampant construction continues due to which the disaster was inevitable. This was a manmade disaster.

This calamity proved the superiority of nature and teaches us a valuable lesson of respecting nature and the importance to conserve it. This is a high time to acknowledge climate change as an ever increasing threat to humanity and how sustainability can play a crucial role in preservation of our planet.

-Shrey Madaan

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