The lake formed in Rishi Ganga catchment area above Raini village.(SDRF)
The lake formed in Rishi Ganga catchment area above Raini village.(SDRF)

'No new lake, it's part of bigger one that caused Chamoli disaster': Experts

  • Reports emerged about the formation of a "new" glacial lake in the Rishi Ganga catchment area, about six kilometres above Raini village.
UPDATED ON FEB 13, 2021 08:37 PM IST

After reports emerged about the formation of a "new" glacial lake in the Rishi Ganga catchment area, about six kilometres above Raini village near the now damaged Rishi Ganga hydel power project, experts conducted an aerial survey of the lake and said that the "lake is not a new one but the remaining part of the bigger lake that caused flash floods on Sunday."

MPS Bisht, director of Uttarakhand Space Application Centre, on the direction of Centre, conducted an aerial survey to study the development on Friday. Bisht, as a geologist, conducted a ground study of the area in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve from 2002 to 2009 under a project of the Union Ministry of Environment Affairs.

After the aerial survey of the area for about an hour, Bisht stated, "The lake which is about 350 metres long and 60 metres wide is located at a height of about 3200 metres in the Rishi Ganga catchment area of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve where a glacier break triggered the disaster on Sunday in which 204 people went missing."

"With my knowledge of the area and geological assessment, I can say that it is not a new lake. On February 6, part of the glacier had broken, bringing down fresh snow and rock sediments from the Raunthi glacier into Raunthi Nullah which then joins Rishi Ganga river. It had blocked the confluence area of the Raunthi Nullah and Rishi Ganga river above Raini village, forming a lake which breached on Sunday morning causing the flash floods resulting and into the disaster," said Bisht.

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He informed that part of the sediments and ice mass remained at the upstream side of the confluence which blocked the catchment area of Rishi Ganga.

"After three-four days of the disaster, the volume of water increased in the catchment area after which the blockade started to breach gradually draining out the water which resulted in the rise in water level in Dhauli Ganga river, 5 kilometres down the Rishi Ganga hydel power on Thursday. Many thought is a new lake which is not the case," said Bisht.

He added that, "One can tell with the colour of the water in the lake, i.e., greenish, that its made from the melting of glaciers."

"However, fortunately, the water is draining out from a 15-20 feet wide channel formed in the lake. In the next few days, the water would be drained out completely which is a good sign," said Bisht.

Earlier on Friday, a team of experts from the DRDO and other Central agencies also conducted an aerial survey of the lake to submit a report to the Centre on the development.

Another team comprising 17 people of Uttarakhand state disaster response force (SDRF) also went there by trekking to gather information of the lake for analysis by experts.

"The team included eight personnel of the SDRF, seven porters and labourers while remaining ones as guides. They had reached at the lake on Friday only and camped there while informing that the lake is about 350 metres long," said Nilesh Anand Bharne, deputy inspector general (law & order) adding that more information could be received after the team comes down likely on Sunday as it is working on making a makeshift helipad there.

SDRF commandant Navneet Bhullar, who is leading the SDRF team in the trek to the lake, in a video message, stated, "The lake is about 350 metres long but sufficient amount of clear water is being drained out from there in form of a proper stream."

"Apart from that, there is debris near the lake which is spread till 400-500 metres of the area downstream," said Bhullar.

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