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Floodwater tears through a town in north-west Pakistan (undated image from NGO Merlin) Millions of people have been displaced by the floodsThe recent floods in Pakistan's Indus Valley are of truly Biblical proportions.
The UN estimates that the humanitarian crisis is now larger than the combined effects of the three worst natural disasters to strike in the past decade.
These include the Asian tsunami and the major earthquakes that devastated Kashmir and Haiti. The headline figure of 1,700 killed masks the real scale of the disaster that has displaced 14 million people. As I write, the southern city of Hyderabad, with a population of 1.5 million, stands on the brink of inundation as peak floodwaters surge downstream. But could climate change mean that floods of this magnitude, or even bigger, become a more regular occurrence? From its headwaters in the Himalayas of Tibet, it flows north-west through India before turning sharply south across Pakistan. Although some of its water comes from melting Himalayan glaciers, the vast majority is dumped by the summer monsoon. Today, the Indus Valley is home to 100 million people, who rely on it completely for drinking water and irrigation. Yet, as the catastrophic floods of August 2010 demonstrate, the Indus is both friend and foe. Geologists are working round the clock to better understand the ancient flood history of the Indus River. Such history lessons will help to better predict its erratic behaviour and "plan for our own uncertain future", said Professor Peter Clift of Aberdeen University, an expert on the Indus River.
His team recently used makeshift "rigs" to drill down into the sands and mud of the Indus floodplain. Dalhousie UniversityDuring a warm period 6,000 years ago, the Indus was a monster river, more powerful and more prone to flooding than today. Professor Clift believes that this failure of the Indus may have triggered the collapse of the great Harappan civilisation. The city ruins of Mohenjo-daro, a relict of this lost culture, date from the time when the rivers ran dry.
Professor Martin Gibling of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, a river expert who has worked in the region, thinks that changes in the strength of the monsoon caused by climate change may be to blame. He explained: "Monsoon intensity is somewhat sensitive to the surface temperature of the Indian Ocean. So, will global warming have the reverse effect, returning the Indus to the monster river of 6,000 years ago? However, Professor Rajiv Sinha, from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, who has had first hand experience of the floods, takes a more strident position. Pakistan has experienced one of the most intense monsoons in decadesIn August 2010, more than half of the normal monsoon rain fell in only one week. Professor Sinha remarked: "Rivers just can't cope with all that water in such a short time.
So, if the unusually intense 2010 monsoon is the shape of things to come - and that is uncertain - the future may hold more flood misery for the people of Pakistan.
In the UK, flood risk is reduced by building levees (embankments) along vulnerable part of rivers. This has the unexpected effect of making Pakistan's rivers prone to even bigger floods when the levees eventually break. Our understanding of why the Indus Valley is prone to catastrophic floods is steadily improving. However, this will be of no consolation for those displaced by the worst humanitarian crisis in a decade. And it is likely to become increasingly difficult to predict the future flood patterns of the Indus. A mock drill organised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in May-June 2011 in three districts of Uttarakhand had raised many crucial questions.
An important observation following the drill noted the gaps in communication between government agencies in the event of collapsed roads and linkages. This system, along with the seven desk system, can increase efficiency of management and timely communication manifold, said another official of NDMA.
Uttarakhand is facing a truly humungous, unprecedented tragedy, the full dimensions of which are still not clear. While the calamity is natural in the sense that the region did receive extremely heavy rainfall and cloud burst, the root causes which increased the human tragedy include unchecked and unplanned infrastructure development along the rivers and development of hundreds of hydel projects in the fragile zone without any proper checks and balances, transparent studies and participatory decision-making processes. The first thing that strikes you when you analyse this disaster is that there was no specific and timely warning of impending disaster from the India Meteorological Department or any other body (their claim to the contrary not withstanding).
In fact we do not have a system in place to forecast cloud burst events, when technology is available to achieve that at approximate cost of Rs 15 crore, as I was informed by IMD Director General, Dr S K Srivastava. In this failure, along with IMD, the National Disaster Management Authority and Central Water Commission share the blame. Secondly, even after rainfall started, till date, six days after the event started on June 15, there is no account of how much rainfall occurred at what specific locations, and what was done to alert the populations that were at risk. In fact Kedarnath, one of the most affected areas, has no rain gauge, says the Indian Express. In the whole of Rudraprayag district where Kedarnath is situated, there is just one rain gauge at the district headquarter, it reported.
This shows how agencies like IMD, CWC, NDMA and SDMA have failed to put in place basic systems of warning, forecasting, monitoring and information dissemination that can greatly reduce disaster potential of any area. In a state like Uttarakhand, which is prone to disasters like cloud bursts, flash floods, land slides, the indiscriminate building of hundreds of hydropower projects, each project entailing dam, massive underground tunnels that need to be blasted through, the roads, townships and deforestation, the disaster and damage potential goes up multi fold, particularly when there are no credible environment of social impact assessments at project or basin level, no credible compliance system in place, nor any carrying capacity study. Even the wrong operation of projects can add to the disaster potential, as happened in case of Tehri in September 2010. Too many hydropower projects, underground tunnels, roads, encroachments of riverbeds by buildings coupled with deforestation have worsened the impact of the flash floods manifold.
The collapse of buildings like a set of playing cards next to the river shows these were encroachments on the riverbed and floodplains.
Both Uttarkashi and the Chamoli-Rudraprayag-Kedarnath area faced monsoon disasters last year in August-September 2012, killing several people. Uttarakhand is witnessing unprecedented development of hydel projects along its rivers: mainly Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and their tributaries as well as Ganga, Gori Ganga, Kali Ganga, etc.
Continuing its modus operandi of appointing a committee when one committee’s decisions are unpalatable, in June 2012, MoEF appointed the Interministerial Group on Upper Ganga Projects, to study reports of IIT-Rourkela and Wildlife Institute of India under the chairpersonship of B K Chaturvedi. The committee was overshadowed with bureaucrats with three non governmental members: Rajendra Singh, Dr Veerbhadra Mishra (who passed away) and Sunita Narain.
The report is largely biased towards hydro projects in Uttarakhand and does not say a word about recommendation of the WII for dropping 24 projects, without giving any explanations.
The IMG report does not go at all into the issues of environmental destruction that such projects would cause and how they will increase the disaster vulnerability of the region, already prone to multiple disasters.

IMG report also did not even mention the increased vulnerability of the region to climate change and how the projects would affect the adaptation capacity and increase the disaster potential. It says adoption of three principles would make hydropower development in Ganga basin sound (which is clearly unsound claim in the first place), but does not bother to apply two of the principles to the projects under review. She also does not mention the numerous environmental destruction these projects would cause, how it will impact the disaster potential, nor the increased vulnerability of the region to climate change.
The IMG report is not even in public domain, nor has any of the members of the IMG demanded that it be placed in public domain.
A recent flash flood on 16-17 June, affected over 50,000 people in the mountain state of Uttarakhand, while it is estimated that over 5000 people are missing with 1000 as reported deaths. During the rainy season (August and September 2012) two major flash floods in Okhimath and Uttarkashi townships led to death of over 120 people and huge  losses. 22 June: The day flood hit Gaurikund on 17th morning, I, with my uncle fled to Gauri village then to Munkatiya. It has been reported that starting from 13 June 2013, on an average over 20,000 tourists and pilgrims  were  going in places like Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamnotri regions daily. The Uttarakhand State Weather Forecast office Director Anand Sharma says that “we release forecast on daily basis, and on 14 and 15 June, the warnings were about heavy rains starting from 16th onwards! In 1998 there was a huge landslide in Mandakini river that originates from Kedarnath in Rudraprayag district. While looking upon the number of tourists in the region on 14 June a total 44591 visited, so they might be around during the rains of 16-17.  The early warning could have saved thousands of lives, those are dead and reported missing. In the state of Uttarakhand that is now affected due to cloud burst and flash floods, generally gets large number of pilgrims and tourists  between May and till mid July every year. As the flood hit the region on 16th and 17th June, we met the officials and elected legislators  to assess the situation and suggest way forward for immediate relief.
Status on 18th: He himself visited the area in chopper rather sending supplies, and the relatives of local and tourists agitated against poor government actions.
We gave a letter to him stating that there are about 5500 people in Kedarnath and Gaurikund region those need to be evacuated and given food, medical supplies and blankets. Status on 20th: While our interaction with the people coming from Kedarnath, Gaurikund, Munkatiya and Ramwada area we were informed that there were no food supplies by government, but a few religious organizations and individuals helped the stranded in giving some food in places like Gauri gaon and Garur Chatti.
Status on 20 evening: Only two choppers sent by government were working, most were working with the visits of politicians and bureaucrats and in the search of their relatives and connections. The Indian army and Indian boarder forces have now reached to places by road, as they were not given adequate helicopters to go in disaster hit areas, and the roads were washed away starting since 16 June. After waiting for almost 4 days for food supplies and evacuation through helicopters, the stranded people didn’t get any help and are now taking risk to walk their own and reach safe places. In few areas the road network has been cleared by Boarder Road Organization, people are taking roads to reach Rishikesh and Haridwar the nearest Railway stations. 20 June:  The post disaster situation in Uttarakhand mountain region is becoming worst as the information is coming related to death toll due to the impact of heavy rain fall and cloud burst.
Slowly, the Indian army is taking control of the situation, and are reaching by roads to these places, which took almost 3-4 days. Today the weather is foggy and only 2 government run helicopters are plying, and it’s impossible to evacuate almost 5 to 6000 people at present pace of rescue operation. It has been said that on GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) could be one of the reason behind the flash flood in Kedarnath township, that washed away almost 200 houses and affected thousands of local inhabitants and tourists. On 17th morning between 7.30 a huge flash flood that originated from Chorabari lake devastated the Hindu pilgrimage city Kedarnath, that was housed by over 3000 people.
During last flood in 2012 many scientists from various organizations warned about the possibilities of such calamities in future, but, things were not taken seriously by planners and policy makers at state and central government. The situation seems not in control of the government in terms of rescue operation and covering huge number of affected people. 19 June: A number of flash floods and landslides in different places in the mountain state of Uttarakhand, India that boarders to China and Nepal, took place between 16-17 June.
During our visit and interaction with natives from different regions of this mountain state, it is expected that thousands (over 70,000) of local and tourists are stranded, and many washed away or missing (over 1500) due to flash flood in places like Kedarnath, Gaurikund, Ghangaria, Joshimath, Tehrai, Uttarkashi, Bhaironghati, Pithoragarh regions. It was the result of a continuous and heavy monsoon rain for 3-4 days during last week.  A tragic disaster in Uttarakhand that shattered the region, the local inhabitants and governments, at national and state level.
Our review for the preparedness measures for Kedarnath region of Uttarakhand finds that the Government at state and centre were completely unprepared for such a disaster. In our meeting on 17th with Yashpal Arya, Minister looking the portfolio of disaster in Uttarakhand state, and Harak Singh Rawat, Agriculture Minister representing Rudraprayag district, have claimed adequate preparatory measure, to help and rescue people in the affected region. The Minister Disaster during our meeting claimed that 18 choppers were ready with NDRF (national disaster relief force) with all food supplies and medical facilities, and they were looking for clear weather condition to drop through air to help and start rescue operation in Kedarnath region, where almost 5000 people are stuck at different place and about 2000 in Kedarnath only.
Almost 1500-1600  people are standing at places in the hope of getting some food, shelter and medical help, which the government could not do on both days 17-18 June. While we continuously are in touch with people and found that for last 2 days they are hungry and didn’t get any help from anywhere in terms of food, shelter and medical facilities.
In Kedarnath only, it is said that almost 1000 people are missing from Kedarnath township.  All bridges and walkable roads are blocked, and the topography of the region is such that people are not able to move from their present places, as flood and land slides have destroyed all routs.
Our meeting with Secretary Disaster Bhasakaranand and Commissioner Garhwal Subardhan  on 18th evening also confirmed that from Kedarnath a total of just 400-500 people could be rescued and official death toll claimed between 40-50.
The phone numbers provided by the state government are not picked up, there is complete communication gap between affected and government run disaster management cells and control centres. In the state it seems that administration is hopelessly and casually dealing with affected. A complete chaos around Uttarakhand state , while the claims are high about helping affected by the state bureaucrats and politicians in print and electronic media.
The fact is that in India official figures only count for media and agencies as well, which is beyond reality ! For over 20 years, HHNT has been committed to providing proactive environmental solutions for our clients.  A community is most vulnerable following a disaster, and decisions must be made with a sense of urgency.
Tourism officials here said floods in Uttarakhand have brought down the business to 20-30 per cent. Besides, scores of hotel buildings particularly in Uttarakashi, Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts have been destroyed completely. Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. Why is this important??Natural disasters are important, because they don’t only effect buildings and land, they affect human beings. Clipping is a handy way to collect and organize the most important slides from a presentation. By precisely dating layers of flood-deposited sand, they were able to work out past changes in river flow.

There is also a sense that the current floods have been exacerbated by the way the Indus has been managed. After the drill, that was conducted in Dehradun on May 27, Haridwar on May 30 and Tehri-Garhwal on June 1, many solutions were offered to reduce damage in the state in the event of a disaster. It also noted that the coordination between various agencies at state and district level was better than at the local level—tehsil, block or town. He said as nothing can be done to ensure that this communication does not break during natural calamities, NDMA made some suggestions. We suggested locations on roads should be identified where stock of food and supplies can be stored.
Officers supervising seven areas—operations, logistics, communication, resources, health, services and infrastructure—sit together to make a plan and allot specific responsibilities for efficient management.
The recommendation, as part of a general guideline for all the states, was issued in India in 2003-04.
It is feared that thousands could be dead and missing and state could take years to get back to normalcy.
Many a times, a natural disaster and its human impacts are a result of multiple things occurring together. It is good that NDMA vice-chair is now holding meetings to put such a system in place, but had he done that before the disaster, the destruction could have been significantly reduced.
The river needs path to flow and when it takes the path it needs, the disaster for these buildings was inevitable. The administration should have learnt, this is not the first time such a disaster has hit us. Though exact estimates are not available, activists like Ravi Chopra have said that there are close to 680 dams in various stages of commissioning, construction, planning in the hill state. IMG report did not even mention that the state is vulnerable to disaster in so many ways and how the projects would influence that. She is the member of the prime minister’s advisory committee on climate change since 2008 and in that context, this is most glaring. During fall of 2010 floods in North Western part of Indian Himalayan region affected over 3 million people and killed 300, in Pakistan left 14 million homeless and killed 1500, and in China killed at least 1,117 people. This study finds that in 100 years period there is 1.6°c rise in temperature, the precipitation rate has increased and  rate of snowfall decreased, leading to reduced river discharge. It is known as peak tourist season in the region, and the state government is generally expected to remain prepared for all such tourist influx, and any calamity or disaster that might happen due to the frequent rains in higher reaches of Indian Himalayan region. All tourists and locals were evacuated by the choppers provided by 8 private companies voluntarily. We have evacuated 500 people from Kedarnath, and the number you are talking over 1000 deaths in Kedarnath and equally stuck in Garurchatti are not correct..! Local people in Gauri village gave food to some, while till 19th no food was supplied, nor any evacuation happened in Gaurikund. Now the army is working effectively in the region, but, the problems they face are related to inadequate food supplies and swelling numbers of tourists and pilgrims in the region that will take some more time to evacuate them completely. It has been recorded that huge number of people are stranded at places and are seeking help for food, shelter and evacuation to reach safe places.
The Gandhi Sarovar lake, also known as Chorabari lake, is one of the well known Glacial lake in the higher Himalayan region of India. The debris flow was such that it had huge boulders and mud that washed away almost 150-200 houses and other were under rubble of 10-12 feet high. When we met and also interacted with stranded people over phones, it was said that there were no rescue teams in place from state government nor from NDRF, while only 2 choppers of Army were rescuing people and could just helped a few, major help came from private helicopter companies and during and overall they could rescue 400 people out of 2000.
In reality the situation is that in Kedarnath, Ramwara and Gaurikund region alone over 2000 people are missing. People and representatives are struggling to get through and speak to state Secretary Disaster, Commissioner, District Magistrate and Chief Secretary of the state to know about the situation and seek help for the affected people in the region. Though the responsible government functionaries in state government claim about doing lot of things in helping and rescuing people, but, things in real sense are not visible in ground. After the devastation, the panic-stricken tourists went back,” said Kochhar, who owns Madhuban Highlands at the Queen of Hills. We are not getting any fresh bookings," says R N Sharma, a hotelier in Mussoorie.With rescue mission in full swing, even the state tourism authorities are advising against travel to the state.
Even if it didn’t happen in your state or area, the cost effects the nation as a whole.?In 2009, natural disasters cost insurers about $110 billion. But over the past half century, more sediment has been flushed down the rivers as forests have been cut.
This, in effect, meant that practical implementation of disaster management would have gaping holes. This also reduces the possibility of gaps in operations due to misunderstanding among various agencies. It suggested the state to follow an “incidence response system” under which the sub-divisional officer or the block development officer or the tehsildar becomes the “incidence commander” during a major disaster. At the same time, disasters, like the one being faced by Uttarakhand currently, highlight the stark anthropogenic reasons which contribute towards causing the disaster as well as increasing its impacts manyfold.
I ran for my life, and could reach home on 18th evening walking through jungles and tough terrains…!
It has been said that people in groups are slowly moving to downhill sides and local people, Indian army, voluntary organizations and religious organizations are providing food and shelter free of cost. The report said that  Haridwar’s command, control and communication system is the best in India and can be emulated elsewhere. All routes have been closed and all businesses have been hit because of the natural calamity," said a tourism department official. At least the food shortage that many pilgrims are facing today in cut off areas could have been averted to an extent. Till 20th evening food supplies were not sent adequately in the places and reports came that 40-50 people died due to hunger in Gaurikund. Chaujar that an original single glacier covered the area, which while receding, split into two snouts. After four days, I could just eat food at Fata (a small township)!”  Rahul Ruwari, (Male, 18 year) stranded in Gaurikund and Munkatiya from Nag village in Rudraprayag.

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