Uttarakhand floods: Avalanche and cloud burst raises questions on hydroelectric projects
The water level in Dhauliganga river rose suddenly following an avalanche near a power project at Raini village in Tapovan area of the Chamoli district.
A developing flood issue in the Dhauliganga river in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district has prompted authorities to launch a search and rescue operation and sounding an alert in all the districts downstream up to Haridwar, according to multiple news reports. The water level in Dhauliganga river rose suddenly following an avalanche near a power project at Raini village in Tapovan area of the district. Hundreds of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel have been deployed for rescue operations at the site near the village, where the deluge has destroyed many riverbank side houses due to cloudburst or breaching of a reservoir, according to ANI. Casualties are feared though the exact numbers aren't clear yet.
“A disaster has been reported from Chamoli district. The district administration, police department and disaster management have been ordered to deal with this disaster. Do not pay attention to any kind of rumours. The government is taking all necessary steps,” Uttarakhand chief minister TS Rawat said in a tweet in Hindi.
Aerial rescue & relief missions have resumed with Mi-17 & ALH helicopters flying from Dehradun to Joshimath with disaster relief teams on board: Indian Air Force#Uttarakhand pic.twitter.com/RplNQxbayO— ANI (@ANI) February 8, 2021
“As a precaution, the flow of Bhagirathi river has been stopped. To prevent the flow of water of Alaknanda, Srinagar Dam and Rishikesh Dam have been emptied. SDRF is on alert. I beg you not to spread rumours. Pay attention to official authentic information only. I am leaving for the scene myself,” he added.
We've intensified search operation at the 2nd tunnel. We've information that around 30 people are trapped there. Around 300 ITBP jawans are deployed to clear the tunnel. Local administration says that around 170 people are missing: Vivek Pandey, ITBP Spokesperson #Uttarakhand pic.twitter.com/Ab28klDcoB— ANI (@ANI) February 8, 2021
The chief minister also hinted towards the possibility of damage to the Rishiganga project in Raini village and flooding in the lower areas of Alaknanda. “There is a possibility of damage to the Rishiganga project in Rini village of Chamoli due to heavy rains and sudden water. There is also a possibility of flooding in the lower areas of Alaknanda due to sudden arrival in the river. People have been alerted in coastal areas. People settled along the river are being removed from the area,” he Tweeted.
Bravo @ITBP_official for rescuing trapped persons from the tunnel near Tapovan. Salute to your efforts and service. ????#Dhauliganga, #Uttarakhand #Himveers Credits - Video Chamoli Police pic.twitter.com/QaR5K3AsD3— Supriya Sahu IAS (@supriyasahuias) February 8, 2021
According to Hindusthan Times, hydroelectric projects might be a big threat to the ecologically fragile zone. "Although the Supreme Court took suo moto (on its own motion) cognizance of the 2013 Kedarnath cloudburst and flooding that killed over 5,000 people and an expert committee warned as early as in 2014 that hydroelectric projects could pose a disaster risk to the state, Uttarakhand is still pursuing the construction of hydroelectric projects and dams," they mentioned.
Chamoli district magistrate Swati S Bhadauria has instructed officials to evacuate people living in villages on the bank of Dhauliganga river. The district magistrate and the superintendent of police have left for the spot.
The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) has also been rushed to the spot. "The local SDRF was informed at around 11 am following which three teams comprising about 30 men reached the spot to start the rescue operation. The avalanche has brought huge muck and debris in the river. The loss of life and property is yet to be ascertained," Praveen Alok, SDRF’s spokesperson, said.
(Inputs from agencies / photo Sudarsan Pattnaik/Twitter)