On Sunday, February 7, a part of the enormous Nandadevi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, resulting in an avalanche near the Rishi Ganga Power Project. This avalanche triggered massive flooding in the Alaknanda River system and the massive destruction of several houses.
Impact of the Glacier Burst
The floods caused significant damage to two power projects – NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydel Project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project in the Chamoli District. Thirty-five labourer’s working on the same project are missing. Senior Police Officer said, The Dhauliganga Dam thoroughly got washed away because of the floodwater.
Rescue operations are ongoing at Tapovan Tunnel, where a large number of people were at work. ITBP Chief visited the site to assess the operations.
The Vice-Chairman of Delhi Jal Board, Raghav Cheddha, said the water supply in the South, east, and North-east are likely to be affected as they are operating at a lower capacity. Floods in Uttarakhand increased the turbidity of raw water fetched by Delhi from the Upper Ganga Canal to unprecedented levels.
72 Dead and 205 Missing
The Officials have reported that one more body was found on Friday from the Alaknanda River banks in Kaleshwar, taking the death toll to 72. Until now, 72 bodies and 30 human body parts have been recovered from different recent avalanche hit areas, out of which 40 bodies and one human body part have been identified, Chamoli District Police said. DNA samples of bodies that have not been identified are taken care of. The missing reports of 205 people have been recorded at the Joshimath Police Station, the District Police said. DNA samples of 110 kin, 58 bodies and 28 human body parts have been sent to Forensic Science Laboratory in Dehradun for matching.
Rescue Operations and Relief Measures
The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat, announced Rs.4 lakhs as compensation to the deceased’s family. The rescue and relief operations are ongoing. State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NRDF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police are currently involved and are still carrying out the operations and other teams. The State Government released Rs.20 crores for rescue operations from the State Disaster Response Fund.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is continually observing the situation. He spoke to the Uttarakhand CM and has ensured providing all support to deal with the situation. He added NRDF Teams have left for rescue operations and that every help will be provided to ‘Devbhoomi’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an ex-gratia of Rs.2 lakhs from the PM National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the kin of those killed and Rs.50,000 to those injured.
Uma Bharti, the Former Union Minister, visited Tapovan to check the search operations that have been underway at the NTPC’s damaged hydel project site for 19 days.
The Government of Jharkhand has started giving compensation to the victims of the disaster and the families affected. The State Labour Commissioner A Muthukar informed the deceased’s families would be given a sum of Rs. 1 lakh under the Jharkhand Interstate Migrant Labourers Survey.
What do the experts have to say?
Experts say this is an infrequent incident of a glacial burst and might be a climate change event. However, there is a further need to examine all the weather data and reports to confirm this case. It’s questionable if it is a cloudburst, as the Chamoli District’s weather reports show Sunny weather with no data of precipitation, said Mohd. Farooq Azam, assistant professor, glaciology and hydrology department of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indore. He adds, “Satellite and Google images do not show any glacial lake, but there may be a possibility of water pocket in that region.”
This deluge has once again brought light to Climate Change and increased human activity in ecologically fragile areas. This may cause problems on the Char Dham road project.