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Landslides Devastate Uttarakhand
|by V. K. Joshi (Bijji)|
The Himalayas and the landslides are synonyms. Had the Indian plate not collided with the Asian plate some 50 million years ago, the Himalayas would not have been there. It was only because of that collision that a new mountain chain was formed and the geography of the region was written once again. It is common sense that water flows down the slope and after the rise of the Himalayas, steep slopes had come up. Naturally they became targets of water flowing on their surfaces. The agencies of erosion like water, air and temperature all became hyperactive and thus began the process of mass wasting.
The Himalayas are not live, yet they have a great quality of issuing warnings to the mankind. Alas, man thinks he is above the nature, hence ignores the warnings. If we take a look at some of the past landslides that have adversely affected life, the picture becomes absolutely clear.
Mr. P. Baron, the British businessman, accidentally discovered Nainital in 1840 and by 1841, the first house was constructed there, named the ‘Pilgrim’s Cottage.’ Thus began the inhabitation of Nainital. Mr. Atkinson wrote a detailed Gazeteer of Kumaon and he mentions of a landslide in Nainital in 1866. The slide affected the portion of Nainital where the present day high court and other residential colonies are situated. Nainital, mind you is made of limestone, which is water soluble. Thus over the years, the slide material reconsolidated due to water action. The British too were not that wise till then and except making few drains did not think much of the slide. They constructed all the buildings on this slope made of reconsolidated material.
The British kept exploring the Himalayas and in 1893 came the news of a spur of Kunwari parvat slipping down across a narrow neck of Birehi Ganga 22 km off Belakuchi on Chamoli—Badrinath road. This slip caused blocking of the stream and a huge lake was formed at Gohna. In July 1894 a British Geologist examined it and postulated that the lake would burst on 26th August! His warning was taken seriously and a telegraph line was immediately laid from Gohna to Haridwar to forewarn the inhabitants downstream in time. The lake did burst, but only partially. But the telegraph line came as a boon, only one family perished, because they had ignored the warnings and gone back to their house in Srinagar to collect more possessions.
But unfortunately, the memories of people are short and once again in 1978 sudden heavy rains in the upstream areas of Bhagirathi led to damming of the River near Dangla. A huge lake was formed in a manner similar to Gohna Tal. But unlike Gohna Tal, this lake could last for four days only. It wiped out Gangnani village completely and mauled Uttarkashi and Bhatwari severely. Naturally all along its valley down the slope, Bhagirathi played havoc that year.
It seems we are hell bent on challenging the nature and keep constructing in the paths of the rivers and on the fragile slopes. We have all the might of dynamite with us and we will keep on blasting the hills for making roads and tunnels. We need wood to make our houses, so we do not care for the forests that are the anchors of the hill slopes. The hacking of the forests of the Himalayas had started during the British regime and it continues unabated-partially scientifically and mostly on the sly.
People of Uttarakhand want roads for communication. They have every right to demand that. But the buses that ply on those roads or any other vehicular traffic generate vibrations which are equal to mini-earthquakes. Rain soaked Himalayan slopes, bereft of trees become more vulnerable to landslides specially, when they vibrate endlessly due to vehicular movement.
|More by : V. K. Joshi (Bijji)|
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10/08/2013 11:59 AM
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