Why are there landslides in Uttarakhand?

This is a very moving survivor’s account of  the flooding at the Kedarnath shrine.  It is hard to imagine the scale of destruction and the suddenness of it, even reading news reports. To actually live through that is horrific beyond words.

I keep reading reports about how the Government is not doing its job, evacuating people too slowly etc etc.  While I’m sure there are lots of things the Government can do/ could have done better, the evacuation itself is being done by the Indian Army/ Air Force/ ITBP and they seem to be doing a fabulous job at high risk to their own lives.  I understand the anxiety of relatives, but I am not surprised they are being evacuated at the rate of 10-15 people per helicopter.  It is not exactly the sort of terrain one can land transport aircraft in.  Not only is the hillside steep, but the roads too are about 3 inches wide at the best of times, and now even that has been washed away.  We are talking about rappelling and rock climbing here.

Pic courtesy:  PTI/ The Hindu

Army personnel rescuing pilgrims by a washed off road. Pic courtesy: PTI/ The Hindu

We know the rain was torrential, but we don’t know whether it was unusually torrential.  Do we have records for the last 100-200 years?  What constitutes average rainfall during the monsoons?  Time was when Kedarnath and Badrinath used to see very few pilgrims precisely because they were so inaccessible.  Now devotees pour in by the thousands, so any disaster gets magnified in terms of loss of life.

The rains were not the problem, in my opinion, the landslides were.  That region seems to be getting a lot more landslides in recent times.  As far as I know, landslides are caused by loss of tree cover, and unless all the trees in Uttarakhand are dying mysteriously of disease, the cause of the landslides (and this whole tragedy) is indiscriminate logging.   I am surprised that no one is focusing on this issue.

It is not going to stop raining in Uttarakhand.  People are only going to go in greater numbers to Badrinath and Kedarnath.  And unless we do something about the landslides, this sort of tragedy is only going to keep occurring.

So can we please have more of a national debate on how to stop those landslides ?  If logging is the cause, can we talk about the logging ?

 

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One Comment

  1. It is true that indiscriminate felling of trees and making concrete buildings on hill slopes for tourists to stay, makes it vulnerable to landslides. Tree leaves on the ground acts as a sponge to absorb water and tree roots helps in preventing the soil erosion and landslides.

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