Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST

The glacial burst in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, killing at least seven persons with another 170 feared dead, is nature’s way of telling humans that it can strike back when the ecological balance is destroyed. That may sound mystical but the stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the fragile mountain system for the two back-to-back under-construction dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers, despite warning by experts and ecologists, had played havoc with the local ecology.

And, climate change, held responsible for faster glacial melting, could have aggravated the situation. A 2019 report by Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development said that 36% of the volume of glaciers in Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region will be gone by the end of 2100 if the world manages to keep the temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius as mandated by Paris Climate Agreement. Though the disaster region may not strictly fall in the HKH, its findings confirm what has been said in various studies on faster melting of glaciers feeding the perennial Ganga from the upper reaches of Uttarakhand and China.

Also Read | Uttarakhand glacier burst: Day after tragedy, multi-agency rescue operations on

The data from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s resource centre on Himalayan glaciers reveals that melting of the glaciers in Central Himalayan catchment area, where Chamoli falls, has increased in the first 20 years of this century. A research based on the study of 650 glaciers spanning 2,000 kms and published in journal, Science Advances, in June 2019 showed that glacial melting has doubled since 2000 as compared to 1975-2000. The faster melting of hundreds of Ganga glaciers would impact livelihood of close to 600 million people living in the Ganga river basin from Uttarakhand to Bangladesh, and India’s economy.

Glacial melting and bursts are well-documented but little attention has been paid to the damage caused to the local ecology and loss of forest cover in the upper reaches of Central Himalayas for building hydel dams and construction of wider roads (read Char Dham road project) keeping environmental norms at bay. Villagers of Raini in Chamoli, now the epicentre of the Sunday disaster, had petitioned the Uttarkhand high court in May 2019 against illegal stone quarrying on Rishi Ganga river bed, blasting of mountains and improper muck disposal by contractors engaged in construction of Rishi Ganga hydel project. The district magistrate of Chamoli , asked by the high court to submit a report, found some of the allegations true.

The fragile upper reaches of Uttarakhand, source for several small riverine systems feeding Ganga, already has 16 dams and another 13 are under construction. The state government has proposed another 54 dams to harness hydel energy potential of these rivers. On Dhauli Ganga river, 8 back-to-back new hydel projects are proposed in addition to National Thermal Power Corporation’s Tapovan project, which was badly damaged in Sunday’s flash floods. Geologists say that such heavy drilling of a young and under-studied mountain systems such as Himalayas and loss of massive green cover for these dams were causing an irreparable damage.

Also Read | Uttarakhand glacier bursts: Panic and memories of 2013 floods

What should be an eye-opener for those pursuing the death of Himalayan ecology in the name of development is that rarely, anywhere in the world, two big disasters in a region have taken place in less than a decade. A similar flash flood caused by glacial lake burst ravaged the Kedarnath shrine at the peak of the pilgrimage season in June 2013, killing close to 3,000 people and leaving thousands missing. The death toll in Chamoli disaster is expected to be around 180.

There is enough data to suggest that severe flash floods due to glacial melt in Uttarkhand have increased post-2000 and if the present Himalayan destruction continues, it would rise further and would be more fierce. If we don’t stop this ecological catastrophe, the nature will strike back again, as it did in Kedarnath and Chamoli, and next time, it could be worse. So, saving Himalayas is the only option India has.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Congress needs to worry more about rebels than opponents in Puducherry

By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:32 PM IST
The only time the Congress has lost Puducherry, it has been because of a rebel. The Congress and DMK together have won over 50% seats in every assembly elections in Puducherry since 1980, except in 2011
Close
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)

Behind PM Modi’s stinging critique of the IAS, a Jan meeting holds the clue

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 09:35 AM IST
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given bureaucrats an earful at a January meeting of the country's top officials and underlined the price that India paid for their slow pace.
Close
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.

Salute to Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined PM Modi’s personal ties with rivals

By Saubhadra Chatterji | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 03:37 PM IST
  • Leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties have many stories to show that the Prime Minister has maintained personal rapport with leaders cutting across political boundaries.
Close
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST
Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
Close
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)

Perception is the truth in information warfare over farm laws

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2021 01:42 PM IST
  • The Chinese were among the first to recognise the role of information warfare to weaken the adversary from within
Close
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)

A new confidence about India reflects in a bold Budget 2021

By Monika Halan
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2021 09:59 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has chosen to spend on generating future income using the higher capital spending, which has gone up by 35.4% over the previous year
Close
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)

The life and times of a Patna intellectual

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:20 AM IST
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all at the same time. Patna’s public life will not the same without him.
Close
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)

Jaishankar yellow-cards China for violating pacts, spells out the India way

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • S Jaishankar’s speech on India-China ties signals India’s determination to continue to stand up to Xi Jinping’s expansionist plans for Asia as an equal and makes it clear that nothing that Beijing does against India will be overlooked, or allowed to go unpunished.
Close
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)

Jack Ma story: China’s deep strategic ambition

By Manoj Kewalramani
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 04:50 AM IST
This statist vision of the future is very different from the government creating a level-playing field for private capital to compete and the market to do its job. It is about the State guiding capital and private entities towards what it believes are national strategic priorities, rather than allowing them to simply focus on generating greater revenue.
Close
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Republic Day raid was pre-meditated, planned well in advance

UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 02:17 PM IST
With Delhi Police under firm orders not to open fire, the armed Nihang Sikhs provided the cover for the tractors to roll towards Red Fort.
Close
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.

How unruly farmers tried to embarrass India on Republic Day

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 02:09 PM IST
The tractor-borne unruly farmers were minutes away from India Gate when they were blocked by New Delhi Range police.
Close
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The policy landscape around digital and physical micro-lending

By Amol Agrawal
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
In 1870s, a similar backlash emerged in Poona and Ahmednagar districts of the Bombay presidency. The agriculture boom in the early 1860s led farmers to take loans from moneylenders
Close
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)

Vaccinating all Indians, for free

By Praveen Chakravarty
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The markets are at an all-time high. Impose a Covid-19 surcharge on transactions and use it for vaccination
Close
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)

Farm protests: The costs of a prolonged standoff

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The government has extended an olive branch. The farmers must respect this and reciprocate. The tone set on Saturday should pave the way for a permanent solution.
Close
Pushing against the climate crisis — in spite of the terrible fire and hurricane damage — was his way of putting the economy before all else. This is what Biden-Harris will have to overcome with smart policies and even smarter communication. (AFP)
Pushing against the climate crisis — in spite of the terrible fire and hurricane damage — was his way of putting the economy before all else. This is what Biden-Harris will have to overcome with smart policies and even smarter communication. (AFP)

On climate, what the US needs to do

By Sunita Narain
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 06:25 AM IST
Joe Biden has done well to rejoin the Paris accord. But his administration will have to overcome Trumpism, take responsibility for historic emissions, and change energy consumption patterns at home
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP