Regions in Himachal Pradesh facing Joshimath-like threat: CM Sukhu

Updated on Jan 16, 2023 04:30 AM IST

“Like Joshimath, we also have some regions in Himachal Pradesh which are sliding gradually. We couldn’t plan for these regions effectively with adequate technology,” Sukhu said, addressing an audience through videoconferencing at the India Meteorological Department’s 148th Foundation Day event held in Delhi.

Himachal chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.
Himachal chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.
ByJayashree Nandi

Parts of Himachal Pradesh could be experiencing a gradual sliding similar to the recent subsidence in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath, Himachal chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said on Sunday, heightening concerns that the phenomenon could increasingly threaten lives and property in the western Himalayas.

“Like Joshimath, we also have some regions in Himachal Pradesh which are sliding gradually. We couldn’t plan for these regions effectively with adequate technology,” Sukhu said, addressing an audience through videoconferencing at the India Meteorological Department’s 148th Foundation Day event held in Delhi.

Also Read | Joshimath sinking: Locals on edge over relocation; CM holds key meet| Top 10

He requested science minister Jitendra Singh to visit Himachal Pradesh to discuss issues related to disaster management. “Please come to Himachal Pradesh. We want to discuss disaster-related matters,” the chief minister said. “You are from the neighbouring state and you know the geological conditions of Himachal Pradesh.”

As much as 30% of the area in Kinnaur and Spiti see frequent cloudbursts, he pointed out. “These areas need to be covered. Around 2-3 years ago, there was a cloudburst in Kinnaur, which not only damaged life and property but also hydropower projects. Please pay attention to this,” Sukhu added.

Also Read | ‘Don't shoot the messenger’: Kharge to Modi after NDMA's gag order on Joshimath

Rainfall in mountainous regions typically precipitate landslides and subsidence events as rapidly flowing water loosens the subsoil, weakening foundations.

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami also attended the event virtually, but did not address the audience. He left midway because he had to take a flight to Delhi, Dhami’s staff said.

Officials of the earth sciences ministry declined to comment on the geological investigations at Joshimath as the National Disaster Management Authority has asked government officials and institutions not to interact with the media and share data on social media on the matter.

During the event, the weather bureau inaugurated four Doppler weather radars at Surkanda in Uttarakhand, Murari Devi and Jot in Himachal Pradesh, and Banihal Top in Jammu and Kashmir.

The India Meteorological Department plans to cover the entire country with 62 Doppler radars by 2025, up from 37 today, director general M Mohapatra said. Doppler weather radars are used to locate rainfall, calculate its motion and estimate its type. They are particularly useful in areas where there are no automatic weather stations. They are very useful in nowcasting (immediate alerts) of extreme weather events like flash floods and cloudbursts.

These weather radars can cover a radial distance of 100km and the one at Banihal Top will be useful in facilitating weather inputs for the Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, earth sciences secretary M Ravichandran said.

Although the weather office’s forecasts had improved significantly and loss of lives due to cyclones have reduced considerably, it’s important for people to understand that department cannot forecast accurately beyond a certain period, Ravichandran said.

“We cannot provide deterministic forecast. We can only provide probabilistic forecast. Beyond say a period of 4-5 days, the forecast cannot be accurate. This needs to be communicated effectively to people,” he said.

Science minister Singh said there had been upto 40% improvement in weather forecasts.”Weather Prediction Accuracy has increased by about 20-40% for different severe weather events forecast during last five years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself monitors disaster-related matters. This is a very high priority for our government,” he said. “Doppler weather radars have increased from 15 to 37, and 25 more will come by 2025.”

The weather bureau should develop a communication cell that can provide weather information in easy to understand format for citizens, the minister suggested. “For example, the IMD has forecast a second cold wave. But today, when there was sunshine, some people asked me what’s going on. We need to provide weather information in a very easy to understand format,” he said.

Mohapatra said his department has started working on attribution studies to detect impacts of climate change and also on adaptation and mitigation measures to deal with the climate crisis.

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