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Uttarakhand floods Nature or Human have aggravated the miseries

The above line seems to be very much true in case of Uttarakhand disaster. The devastation wrought by flooding in Uttarakhand is probably the worst the northern state has faced in recent memory.

The devastating floods of Uttarakhand which ravaged the region by killing thousands and leaving hundreds of other stranded has more man-made factors and less natural cause behind it.

The flood hit Uttarakhand has just not evolved from the havoc of rain but the uncontrolled development and poor disaster planning has aggravated flood damage.

According to environmentalist GD Agrawal "This (disaster) will continue if the central and state governments don't stop the rush to clear projects," As per experts indiscriminate development in hill towns and along rivers has blocked the natural flow of water and exacerbated flood damage. They place the blame on successive governments who have prioritized large scale infrastructure construction and neglected disaster prevention.

The unbridled growth of tourism accompanied with proliferation of roads, hotels, shops and multistory housing in ecologically fragile areas and above all mushrooming hydroelectricity dams that disrupt water balances are the underlying causes of this catastrophe.

It was not unprecedented that Uttarakhand region witnessed such heavy rainfalls as the records show that Uttarakhand has recorded single-day rainfall in excess of 400mm several times, including 450mm in 1995 and 900mm in 1965. Cloudbursts, floods and rapid swelling of fast-flowing rivers aren't uncommon. But this time the floodwaters, loaded with tens of thousands of tones of silt, boulders and debris from dam construction, found no outlet. The routes they took in the past, including ravines and streams, were blocked with sand and rocks. The waters deluged towns and villages, submerging some buildings under several feet of mud, asphyxiating life.

It is highly probable that the floods were exacerbated by Glacier Lake Outbursts Floods (GLOFs) which inundated the Kedarnath temple.

GLOFs, or the explosive bursting of glacier lakes, are thought to be a result of human-induced climate change, which is causing rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, themselves warming at twice the global rate. Lack of an early warning system, effective evacuation plans and a responsive disaster management system added to the calamity.

Modestly priced radar-based technology to forecast cloudbursts would have saved lives. But it wasn't installed. There was failure on the level of local governance too. Sloppy, unregulated construction of roads and bridges was permitted on crumbling, landslide-prone ridges and steep slopes, overlooking the region's delicate geology and high earthquake vulnerability. Large scale deforestation and construction of hundreds of buildings in the flood plains of rivers have taken place. Riverbeds were recklessly mined for sand.

As construction debris accumulated, land contours and flows of streams and rivers changed. Indiscriminate construction of hydroelectric dams was the biggest mistake. These involve drilling huge tunnels in the hills by blasting rocks, placing enormous turbines in the tunnels, destroying soil-binding vegetation to build water channels and other infrastructure, laying transmission lines and carelessly dumping excavated muck.

Many dams have been built on the same river so close to one another that they leave no scope for its regeneration. Over 505 dams, part of 244 hydroelectric projects, have been proposed or are being built on the Ganga and its tributaries — Mandakini, Bhagirathi and Alaknanda — in Uttarakhand. About 45 are already running.

The Char Dham area (the pilgrimage circuit of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri), most affected by the recent floods and landslides alone has around 70 dams.

Activists say despite the many floods, landslides and cloudbursts in recent years, nobody has learnt any lessons. "After the Uttarkashi flash floods of 2012, the local administration prepared a report that recommended the removal of illegally constructed structures on the riverbed and flood plains. But the report did not see the light of day," So the man-made factors that aggravated disaster can be summarized as

1. Development in hill towns and along rivers
2. Growth of tourism
3. Lack of an early warning system
4. Effective evacuation plans
5. Responsive disaster management
6. Large scale deforestation
7. Indiscriminate construction of hydroelectric dams
8. Last but not least Factors causes Global Warning

While mountain ranges in the Europe and US are well equipped with seismology driven equipment, all this is missing from our very own Himalayan ranges.

All is surely easier said than done but the government must start thinking on these lines to utilize the best of technology and enable better disaster management techniques on larger scale.

And of course it goes without saying that better communications infrastructure clubbed with better intelligence could have saved many lives that are lost in the Uttarakhand region.

We should take care of the things and plan better for the good future As "Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now to make your future more brighter & prosperous"

- Vijay Yadav